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Walk with me…

This is the post excerpt.

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So much of my life has felt like wandering in the wilderness. But looking back, the remnants of a roadway has been evident. Though I may have felt like I was wondering aimlessly, God has always been there guiding my path. As the road twisted and turned, my heart skips a beat as I can see now, how God had my hand in His the whole time. If you’re looking for encouragement, a friend or even a laugh here and there, look no further! I’d love to share my stories with you of how God has made His imprint on my life and what He’s doing in it right now!

We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

A Wagon Full of Grace

“The scene of the crime, is in your mind”, a beloved pastor often reminds his congregation.

When I set out to start this web log, I was not prepared for the assault my mind would endure. Right away my own insecurities blindsided me. Within 20 minutes of clicking the “Publish” button, I was invaded with thoughts of fear and regret. I was in tears talking myself out of deleting the post and giving up on the idea all together.

I really enjoy sharing my thoughts. Sometimes more than my captive audience wants to endure! My husband recently used the words “motor mouth ” to describe my talkative attribute. It was in a very playful way and we both had a laugh, but I can admit I can be long winded at times, especially when I’ve started talking about something I’m passionate about. Sometimes I feel I have to get whatever it is I’m thinking about out or I’ll explode!

Hence, the blog!

This way, I can let my passionate thoughts run through my fingertips and get lost into the boundless expanse of the World Wide Web. All is well and good, until I find myself wrapped in caution tape struggling to break free from the crime scene my mind is keeping me in.

My goal was to publish a post every Friday. Several weeks slipped by with no new post… then as our lives got overwhelmingly busy:

*renovating our new home

*kids ending their school year

*summer getaways and visitors underway…

I have completely fallen off the wagon and have been dragging helplessly behind for months now!

I have written many posts-well, began many posts. But for one reason or another, I either lost time to go back and complete them or became stuck in my fear. Fear of offending someone, fear of rejection, fear of failing and even fear of succeeding. I’ve had to really look into what it is thats’s bothering me. I have come to realize, it’s not what I’m encountering in the “big out there” that’s bothering me, but what’s in the “little in here”!

The struggle is accepting who I am and what I’m trying to accomplish here.

I’m 4th born in a line of 5 kids. I had a “rough” childhood… not that we all didn’t in one way or another. I was teased a lot because of my scrawny build and short hair. I had orthodontic work starting in kindergarten and was the butt of many jokes. I remember a day running around the monkey bars during recess and kids chasing me, one kid asking me if I was a boy or a girl, “I can’t tell ’cause you’re so ugly”. I was an annoyance to my older siblings and cousins and heard them shooing me away many times. Those feelings come back with a vengeance as I’m writing and building up the courage to publish.

The “who” I am is a struggle, a battle between the person I feel I am, and the person I actually am.

God says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that He knit me together in my mother’s womb. He has known me since before the creation of this world and He loves me so much that He died for me. He has given me purpose in this world to bring Him glory and penetrate the darkness with the light of Jesus shining through me. I have been gifted with talents and strengths designed specifically to meet the qualifications of the job He’s graciously given me here.

So WHY do these fears pop up?

Well, we know that the devil is cunning, he walks about seeking whom he may devour. His tactics are sneaky and we don’t even know we’re under attack until it’s often too late.

I choose to resist the temptation to believe the lies Satan is whispering in my ear.

I refuse to surrender to his attack.

Yes! I have fallen off the wagon, but I also know that this is a very busy season for me. One I wasn’t aware of when I set out my goals in January. (Oh, and in case you’re keeping score, Sermon on the Mount is nowhere near memorized!) I have tried to keep hold of my goals, but as we listed our home, sold it, and bought a new one… the process has overwhelmed me and taken every bit of time and energy I had originally set aside for not only this blog, but many other goals I had listed. We will be moved in by next weekend and then I’ll be on vacation with the family for the following 11 days… when I return I’ll spend the following few weeks making our new house a home and then, August 6, will begin the new school year season.

HOLY COW!

September, sweet September… that’s when I believe I’ll successfully be BACK on the wagon!

Oh I can’t wait! I miss you all and I have so much to share with you! đź’—

Romans Rosebush

Romans has always been my favorite book! My mother’s life verse was Romans 8:28 and the whole chapter was preached at her funeral.

It’s also the first book I read in one sitting, so I was excited to walk through it verse by verse, this time stopping long enough to smell the roses. What I wasn’t expecting, was how I’d be transformed and learn to love better because of it!

I felt at first like I was handed a bush to care for. Those first chapters were brutal! I had dirt under my nails and blood running down my hands from all the thorn pricks!

Then, we were showered with the Gospel of Jesus and how His wounds healed ours. Jesus sacrificed Himself to bring us from death to life!

Just as a rose bush without a gradener would produce nothing, Paul reminded me that, we too, have nothing to give and are unable to produce anything on our own! God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, produces a rose bud atop our thorny stem. As we surrender to Him, we begin to bloom.

Just as a bud blooms into a full blown rose, God is at work in us as we grow closer and closer to the image of His Son. Paul encouraged us throughout Romans to use the abundant grace we have been given through Jesus to LOVE one another. Our love for one another is crucial in How God shows His glory to the unbelieving world, it’s our BEST witnessing tool! Just like a pruned rose bush, we can see how the body of Christ is a marvelous bouquet God has grown for the world around us to enjoy and long to be apart of.

We all bloom in our own time and at our own pace as the Holy Spirit is working in us and through us.

I recently had the opportunity to live out what I’ve learned through Romans. April 21st, 1998, my mother went home to be with Jesus. Since her death, my siblings and I have not only fallen apart, but we have grown apart as well. While studying, it hit me how humble and loving Paul was. I was moved to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to my Dad, Stepmom and siblings in a more genuine and vulnerable way.

I wrote them all a letter, literally 1 letter addressed to all 12 of them including spouses and ex-spouses. I apologized for my part in the breakdown of our relationship over the years and I celebrated each of them, telling them what I loved about them. I didn’t want to wait for another funeral to “celebrate life”. Not only that, all (but 1) are professing believers and so they’re not just my family, but co-heirs with Christ in the body! If we’re going to be together for eternity, I figured we might as well start working through our differences now! The letter was received with softened hearts and made an impact as we reconnected over dinner to honor our Mother’s memory. What started out as shallow conversations turned into heartfelt reminiscing and tearful laughter. I don’t think any of us wanted the night to end.

A rose bush sitting in a pot of dirt, full of thorns, budding blooms in all different stages, reminds me that as The Body, we are in our most beautiful state when we just glorify God! Not trying to bloom on our own, not envying a bloom when we’re still a little rosebud, not criticizing a bud who’s not as far along in their blooming process as we are and not judging the bloom next to us who’s dropped a pedal or two. Paul was clear about calling us to love each other and edify the body of Christ through our God-given gifts. He instructed us to be a living sacrifice, that’s how we glorify God!

I was listening to the book of Romans while cleaning house this past week as I reflected on how I grew in this year’s Bible Study Fellowship program, the illustration came to mind as I listened. I loved how fitting it is. Romans was tough, but in the end, it was a beautiful display of God’s glory and I just wasn’t expecting to get all that I did out of it! …also, my Mother’s name was Rose, so that’s kinda cool too! đź’•

If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, I’d love to pray for you or even with you as you begin to bloom yourself!

Valuing the Invaluable

I don’t know how many times my husband and I have presented a gift to our young children and they’d ‘ooh and ahh‘ over the toy for a few seconds, maybe watch the lights blink with astonishment as it performs a trick or two… THEN the rest of the entire day is spent in absolute amusement as they play in the cardboard box it came in! Literally missing out on the actual gift while having the time of their lives playing with the part that will eventually be discarded in the recycle bin!

Likewise, the most incredible, life-changing event happened and it’s been trampled on by a bunny who lays chocolate cream filled eggs! Easter Sunday is my most favorite holiday, not because of candy filled baskets or the hunt for dyed eggs, but because I get to celebrate the most important historical event that has or ever will happen in all of human existence here on earth.

Jesus, the God of the Universe, humbled himself and took on flesh, let go of His position with the Father, to step into our space and time, our realm, to be beaten, whipped, and hung on a cross, all so that we, sinful mankind, could be called innocent. If it weren’t for Jesus coming in the first place, we wouldn’t have many of the holidays that we celebrate today. (St.) Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween (the eve of All Saints Day), and of course, Christmas! Life as we know it would be extremely different if there were no Easter to celebrate. Look at our 7 day week. The first day, Sunday, most of us are off of work for “the Lord’s day”. It’s the Day the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead! The work-week begins on Monday, the second day of the week and ends on the 6th day. Why? Because of Sabbath of course, we all rest on the 7th day! The Sabbath has been recognized since the creation of the world when God Himself rested. It was established as a Law to the Israelites in the giving of the 10 Commandments. This is why Jesus and the men behind Him at Calvary were hurried off their crosses. These bodies needed to be disposed of and dealt with before sun-down Friday night to be able to keep with the Sabbath Law. To this day, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has commanded respect by the turning of each calendar week!

If you are free of work and obligations on the weekends, you can thank Jesus for them! He has provided them so we can rest and worship our LORD.

Easter deserves it’s due recognition. As you can see my frustration for this holiday. It’s barely even mentioned in light of the decor and madness you’ll see around Halloween or Christmas. But like I mentioned, neither holiday would exist without Easter.

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he talks to them about the importance of Christ’s burial and resurrection. Apparently some of them were already spreading doubt of the unbelievable truth of the resurrection.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise, if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ~1 Corinthians 15:12-19

“We are of all people most to be pitied.”

It’s true, if we, who hold to Jesus as the Messiah, claiming that He atoned for our sins, and raised from the dead, if we are mistaken, we are OF ALL PEOPLE, most to be pitied.

Therefore, Easter, isn’t JUST a holiday that’s being overran by a bunny, it’s much, much more than that. Easter is literally everything, not JUST a holiday.

If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then Christianity is dead as well. If Jesus isn’t resurrected, than we have nothing to hope for.

What’s my hope?

My hope is that one day I will resurrect as well to live eternally with Jesus. Though I am a sinner through and through, and have nothing to offer as payment for the debt my sin incurred, I am completely secure in Christ. I have put my faith completely in Him alone, His payment on the cross was sufficient. Because of Jesus, my Lord, my eternity is secure and I have confident expectation in my own resurrection.

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ effects every aspect of our lives, whether you put your faith in Him or not. If dying eggs and eating chocolate eggs are the highlight of your Easter celebration, (which all of that is absolutely fun and fine to do), but if it’s what makes Easter, Easter for you, I invite you to take a moment and think about what the egg represents. New Life… life resurrected. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me”. Trust Him, believe in Him. Make today the day you claim the hope of resurrection for yourself!

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How Do You Like Them Apples?

Paul goes on to exhort us to be a blessing to those who persecute us, love them back with word and deed. When others rejoice, we rejoice alongside them and when they mourn, we are to enter into their grief and weep along with them. Our humility allows for harmony within the body. The body as a whole becomes the beacon casting it’s light into the darkness, drawing in the lost where they will find not just love, but love eternal. What a serious and exciting command it is: to love one another.

“Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket” Proverbs 25:11 NLT

Have you ever experienced a moment where you knew exactly what to say, the exact moment it needed to be said, and you actually said it! I’ve enjoyed the satisfaction of that very few times in my life. King Solomon described that moment like “golden apples in a silver basket”. I imagine it’s meant to be interpreted as: receiving a profound thought in the precise moment is as delightful as the majestic look of rare gold, popping out of the dull, more common, backdrop of silver. When a moment like that happens, we just want to follow it with, “how do ya like them apples?”

I received timely advice from examining scripture very closely related to that verse. If you continue reading in Proverbs 25, Solomon instructs his son: If your enemies are hungry, feed them, if they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their head and the LORD will reward you.

I had the pleasure of studying this passage in Bible Study Fellowship, an international non-denominational study group that I’m involved with. This year we are walking through the entire book of Romans and this week we were finishing up Chapter 12.

The book of Romans is long and intense dropping one truth bomb after another, if I recap from the beginning, this post would become rather interminable! For the sake of your sanity, I’ll restrain myself and focus on the chapter at hand. It begins with a call to extreme action. Paul basically points out, (paraphrased by me:) ‘Because of the ridiculous mercy God has generously bestowed on us through the sacrificial gift of His Son on the cross, we should have NO other response than to sacrifice our own earthly desires and submit to His. We are to be a living sacrifice set apart for God’s service. Not conforming to the way of this world, BUT being transformed by the renewing of our minds to carry out His perfect will’. He then explains how all believers, contributing synergistically as one body, are to empower each other as well as serve others in humility to effectively overcome evil with good.

God has a plan for His people. Each of us have been given a unique measure of faith, and however much we receive, it’s the perfect “amount” needed to propel us to pursue and ultimately fulfill the purpose we were created for. We’re not just equipped with the faith needed to attempt the job, but also, we have been specifically designed with the intelligence and physical abilities it requires. Last, but definitely not least, the Holy Spirit gifts us with His presence and installs divine faculties to ensure that we are completely capable of carrying out whatever it is that God has planned. Now that we see how precise God’s preparation is in each of us individually, Paul goes on to teach us how we are to treat each other as we all work together to be radically different than the world around us.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

-Romans 12:9-13

Paul encourages us to embrace life in community, as the body of Christ. Love must be sincere. We are to love better than the world loves, without hypocrisy. Our love for one another should cause heads to turn. Jesus demonstrated this at the Last Supper. He humbled Himself as an example for us to follow, by washing the disciples feet. Knowing the crucifixion was before Him, Jesus tells the disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are My disciples, if you love one another.” Yes, He may have repeated “love one another” three times, but the key to this commandment is “everyone will know you are My disciples”. Showing love to the outside world comes much easier by nature, Paul wants us to grasp how crucial it is for us to love the Lord’s people, those we live with in the Body of Christ. This will be the evidence for the outside world that we are truly disciples of Christ. Not from the amount of Bible verses we have memorized, or our prompt and regular church attendance not even how many hours we spend serving in ministry, they will know we are His disciples by how we love one another within the body of Christ.

I often catch myself being critical of those who are closest to me, especially those in my own family. When it comes to the family of God, we are called to be the most forgiving and generous, even honoring them above ourselves. When we find ourselves in a difficult situation, fighting the flesh’s desire to turn our back on or retaliate against a brother or sister in Christ, maybe one who has hurt us, or wandering away from their faith or one who may be deceived and in outright rebellion against what is good and clinging to what is evil; it is our responsibility to surrender to the Holy Spirit in us and love them with His love! Will that brother or sister in Christ come running back to a church family who’s back is turned away with their nose in the air or a loving family with hearts warmed and arms wide open? Paul reminds us to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need and practice hospitality. These commands are easy to do when everyone in the body is healthy and doing their part, but even when they’re not, we must be the living sacrifice that the Lord generously demonstrated as He sacrificed Himself on Calvary’s Cross.

Paul goes on to exhort us to be a blessing to those who persecute us, love them back with word and deed. When others rejoice, we rejoice alongside them and when they mourn, we are to enter into their grief and weep along with them. Our humility allows for harmony within the body. The body as a whole becomes the beacon casting it’s light into the darkness, drawing in the lost where they will find not just love, but love eternal. What a serious and exciting command it is: to love one another.

We have been duped into thinking that love is a feeling. Anyone who’s survived their second wedding anniversary, understands that love is a decision, not a feeling. Sometimes we must decide to love even when we don’t feel like giving it or even receiving it. Offering ourselves up as a living sacrifice to God, we are then transformed by the renewing of our minds and our worldview completely changes. We walk by the light of faith, not sight. We follow God’s Word, not our own. Paul tells us, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will!” We are able to understand what true love looks like. My pastor friend communicates it well by ending his sermons with, “Love God completely (Upward), love ourselves correctly (Inward), and love others compassionately (Outward)”. And those who attend Transformation Church want to finish this line with “Transformers, roll out!”.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friend, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. -Romans 17-19

It seems as though Paul is gently moving our focus to now include everyone we come in contact with, not just focusing on the body of Christ. We aren’t to worry so much about who has wronged us, whether inside or outside the church body. We are to be careful to do right in the eyes of everyone. Our loving responses are being observed by the whole world.

When is it the hardest to love one another? Is it when we are being showered with praises and gifts? NO! It’s when we are being ridiculed, slandered, cheated on, lied to, disrespected or overlooked. It’s when we are injured and bruised, broken and abused. When we have been the target of fiery arrows, the last thing we want to do is respond in love! But Paul’s message relays to us: if it is possible (not: if it’s convenient and comfortable, but if it’s possible), as far as it depends on you (not: as far as it depends on what someone else says or does, but as far as it depends on YOU), live at peace with everyone (not: live at peace with anyone you choose or anyone being nice to you, but EVERYONE). Makes me want to puff out my chest and say, “That’s just NOT FAIR!” Well, no, it’s not, but trust me, when it comes to our salvation, we do NOT want fair! Paul didn’t have to be a mind-reader to assume the church in Rome thought the same thing. I can almost hear Paul’s calm, reassuring voice, answering back, “Do not take revenge, my dear friend, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. {*Insert deep humble inhale… and long relenting exhale!}

God will repay evil within the body with consequences that will cause the backslidden son or daughter to repent so He can restore him or her to their part in the healthy body. He will repay evil outside of the body, when He comes again to make all things right! All those who have not come to repentance and salvation will have their just reward!

Oh Lord, help us to love beyond our abilities so more and more will turn to You before that fateful day!

God’s job – Avenger

On the contrary:

Our job – Humble Servant

If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Got that? In doing this (serving with kindness) you will heap burning coals on his head.

WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN??

I’m so glad you asked! I can’t even relate to that illustration. We typically don’t hear of such an assault. I had to go back to God’s Word and put myself in Pauls sandals and imagine what he might have meant. Since Paul had the the scriptures memorized, Solomon’s wise words naturally came rushing to his mind as the Holy Spirit led him to write this letter to the church in Rome. In the book of Proverbs, we read many similitudes that express wise instruction. This quote is taken from a list of behaviors that illustrate to us that we are to yield to God’s work and not rely on our own. God desires us to meet the needs of those who bring us harm. We are to choose to love them even when we don’t feel like it. We are to be the living sacrifice and be outrageous with our kindness, forgiveness and gentleness. We are to be different and set apart from the rest of the world. Only then, “In doing this”, you will heap burning coals. “In doing this” indicates it’s a result of our kind behavior, NOT an attack, this isn’t a “drive-by coaling”.

When loving speech rolls off our tongues, at the right time, without judgement or scorn, the recipient, however hard-hearted he or she may be, cannot resist kindness. Anger and hate, will absolutely be resisted. But not love. Love will penetrate the heart, the conscience does its work, and the result is as painful as burning coals heaped over the head. The anguish of remorse and shame in the heart travels to the mind, causes the eyes to enflame and well up, the nose begins to sting and the offender feels the agony of conviction both physically and emotionally. This pain is the pain that brings true repentance, this is the pain that saves lives, even lives for eternity!

If you are struggling right now, if you have repayed evil with evil, repent! It’s never too late. God will forgive you, He wants us to learn to love as He loves! I was so guilty of this. I am a class A certified Shunner! If you have hurt me or someone I love, that’s fine: shun! If you hurt my kid, said something that is untrue or took something from me, “Buh Bye!” No big deal… I even think I’m doing a “good” thing by not “associating” with such “bad influences”. This study this week brought me to my knees as I sought the Lord for His forgiveness and mercy! I have failed desperately to be a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God.

If you are struggling right now because you are the offender and have found yourself running far, far away, from the healthy body of Christ that you once had been serving the Lord in. I urge you, with a sincere love, please, come home! Whether your church family is holding out their arms or not, please trust me when I say this, Jesus is! If we are His people, there is never anywhere we can run that’s too far for us to come home from. He is waiting and longs to restore you. Please forgive the body of Christ who are still learning to love the way He loves. You can be an instrument that teaches the body of Christ to love bigger and better than it’s counter-part.

Take a moment and share with the Lord your struggles and ask for Him to guide you as you become a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship!

Thank you, Lord, Jesus! Thank you for not walking away from me. Thank you for forgiving me when You had no obligation to do so. Thank you for loving me when I don’t deserve love, but deserve wrath. I sincerely repent for not being kind when I have chosen to retaliate in evil. I’m sorry for allowing hurt and pain to guide my actions rather than love and forgiveness. Create in me a new heart, renew my mind and empower me to love when I feel the temptation to hate! It’s in Jesus’ precious name, I pray, Amen

Vision Board

I was challenged several years ago to utilize a tool that is sure to help bring my wildest dreams to fruition. By simply creating a board to display images or words that represent what I desire for my future, the universe would mystically swing into action and bring the right people and opportunities into my life that would make all my dreams come true. “To think is to create”, they quipped. As long as I had those miscellaneous pictures of what I wanted to acquire or attain in sight, I’d be on my path to receiving them. The idea is: visualize your aspirations and physically display them so that your subconscious mind will stop at nothing until those things on your board are manifested. Your goals will be achieved because you’re keeping yourself fixed on the end result, you’ll stick to your short-term goals, which will deliver you to your long-term goals, until eventually, your dream is accomplished.

I had a real problem with this philosophy. Not because I didn’t agree with the concept of setting goals and creating a constant reminder to aid in overcoming obstacles, but mostly because I completely agreed with it. It’s very evident in many cases that anyone who sets their mind on specific goals, with enough time, energy and practice, can take any dream and turn it into reality.

That was almost 20 years ago. I can imagine what I would have pinned on that vision board. I had many lofty goals that would have served me well. However, the reason why I couldn’t, and still can’t get on board with the “Vision Board”, is because: I am not the master of my life!

Hear me out~

When I accepted Christ as my personal savior, that means I understood that I was a sinner in need of a savior. Jesus, God in the flesh, took on my sins, all of them, even sins I have yet to commit and paid the full penalty for them by being crucified on my behalf. Therefore, yes, THEREFORE, the only {logical} response is to give Him full authority and allow the work of the Holy Spirit to Master my life instead.

There is an internal battle within me, between the natural flesh and the Holy Spirit. Surrendering to God’s will doesn’t always happen. When I choose the flesh over the Spirit, I face consequences, those consequences teach me to grieve my sin and repent. The process over time draws me closer to the Lord. As each day passes, with each victory or failure, my will is being lined up with the will of God. I am truly being transformed. This is called sanctification. The inner me is not only choosing to do God’s will more freely, but I am able to see what grieves the heart of God and it brings me to recognize sin and hate it more and more. Choosing to follow the way the Spirit is leading is becoming not just easier, but downright exciting! I wouldn’t have imagined that this would be the life I’d be living and if I had stuff up on my Vision Board that I was following hard after, I wouldn’t have time to follow hard after Jesus!

Now if you have a Vision Board, don’t rip it down. But I challenge you to rename it, and in turn it may need to be reorganized, restructured or as Paul in Romans 12:2, puts it, transformed. Since God gave His life for me, my reasonable response is offering myself to Him as a living sacrifice. I want Him to live through me! I’ve witnessed God completely change my life overnight. I’ve seen Him deliver me from situations I never would have imagined. There’s no image I could have placed on my Vision Board that would have produced the results God has accomplished for me. In fact, all I had to do was get out of His way! I’ve experienced unimaginable heartache that no one in their right mind would EVER put on a Vision Board, but it’s where I grew the most and felt His presence the strongest.

His Vision Board for me is what I get excited about!

God lovingly gives me glimpses of the Vision Board He has for me. I must trust Him and follow His every clue and let it play out as He allows. He lights my path by guiding each step, I would have never followed Him if I knew the dips and turns that path would take. It’s the hindsight that proves His perfect will over my life. I see where He carried me and when He rescued me. I have seen Him work in mighty ways and if I was stuck focused on my own vision for my life, I would have accomplished my dreams, and missed out on His. If God spoke and the universe leapt into existence, what wonders could He have planned for me, and who am I to get in the way of that?

Dreams and visions are so important, but so much more incredible when they originate from God. Think of Joseph, he was given two dreams that forecasted that his father and 11 brothers would all one day bow down to him. Even their work would bow down to Joseph’s work. The dreams boosted his pride and when he informed his brothers of the dream, they became jealous of Joseph and plotted to kill him. His brother, Reuben, planned to rescue him, but no one else knew that. They threw Joseph into an empty cistern and took his coat, covered it in goat’s blood, brought it back to their father to have him believe Joseph died. The other brothers, without telling Reuben, sold him to traveling merchants who were on their way to Egypt. That way they make money on him instead of killing him. Joseph believed the dream God gave him, but being sold as property, his brothers hating him while his father believed him to be dead was definitely NOT how he imagined those dreams would play out.

If you look at that story, you can see how incredibly different Joseph’s life would have been if he, himself, attempted to bring those dreams to reality. Even if he had worked relentlessly, he may have gotten his family to bow to him by force, but God had so much more in mind and there’s no way Joseph could have designed his story better than God did. Joseph wouldn’t have even come close!

I guarantee Joseph never would have thought attempted murder, being sold into slavery, being accused of rape which led to imprisonment and all that he endured was what God had in mind when He revealed those dreams to him. But because Joseph was relying on God to guide his every step, the dreams were brought to reality and Joseph was able to see where God had worked on his behalf. The pharaoh depended on Joseph to interpret his dream. Through that, Joseph moved up in ranks and his status, eventually, allowed him to deliver his brothers and father from the famine in Canaan. God not only led Joseph to rule in Egypt and save the Israelites from famine, but also used him to point them to the coming Messiah as a picture and type of Christ Himself! Joseph had no idea the impact God was going to do with the revelation of those dreams, even the fact that we’re here, almost 3,000 years later talking about it.

If God has given you a dream, don’t ignore it. Pray and seek His guidance. He is writing your story. When He has brought your dream to life, He will be the star of the show. What’s an accomplished Vision Board if the only one receiving glory is yourself?

In Matthew, Jesus told the parable of the talents. He explained how the master left a portion of money with 3 different servants, different amounts according to their ability. The servant with 5, invested it wisely and doubled the amount given to him, so did the servant who received 2. The third servant buried his 1 talent in the ground. When the Master returned, the first 2 servants were rewarded by the Master who said to each of them, “well done, my good and faithful servant.” To the last one, he rebuked him and called him lazy for burying his talent in the ground. He informed him that it would have been better for him to have at least taken it to the bank so it could accrue interest. The master told him to give his 1 talent to the one who had 10 and said, “for to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away”.

Whatever God has entrusted to me according to my ability, I want to invest it into His work so that when my master returns, I will have more to give back to Him. I do believe we need to do our part and be wise with the gifts and talents God has given us. We need to act out on the faith we have been given and when we find ourselves meeting our Master face-to-face, we’ll hear the words, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Just Jump Already!

So, have you ever jumped off a ledge before? I got to climb up a telephone pole once. I ascended the pole one quivering foot at a time, managed to hoist my body on the platform and stand tall, taking in the majesty of the view around me. You can clearly see my “scared to ugly” face! As I trembled in fear, the pole became an extension of my body and shook even worse than I did. I had to calm myself so that the 25 feet of pine would rest itself beneath me. Taking a deep breath – in through the nose, out through the mouth, I summoned courage from somewhere deep inside. Courage to leave the security of that gigantic pedestal and leap into the air. I placed my faith in the 4 men holding the ropes, trusting they would bring me safely to the ground below.As you can tell, I lived to talk about it. Climbing that pole and balancing my body on top of the tiny platform was quite a challenge, but jumping off, that was the real test. What it took: complete trust.

Several years ago I had found myself in a very similar situation. Trembling in uncertainty, readying myself to take the leap of faith my circumstances demanded. We had just bought our first home and our son was about to turn 3. My husband had just lost his job and I was a stay-at-home-mom. Graciously a close friend offered to watch our son for a very reasonable price so I could get a full time job through a temp agency. I planned to work 2 months while John found a new job.

I landed the perfect job with a well known home builder who needed help in their warranty department. They walked me into a big room filled with cubicles and rows of filing cabinets. One particular cubicle was filled with stacks upon stacks of papers that needed to be filed. I was told that every year they hire a temporary employee to file papers and then they let them stack up again for another year. I could not believe this! I asked a few questions and decided I just couldn’t bring myself to do this job. It was a total waste of my time and theirs. I asked to speak to the manager of the department. We formulated a plan that would be beneficial to both of us. I would work for two months, on my own, creating a filing system so that papers would never stack up again and he would never have to hire another temp for such a mundane job. I ordered a few supplies and got to work!

Those two months were chaotic already, me working full-time, still maintaining a home and raising a toddler, but God still used that time to bring me to a place of complete trust in Him.

After I had our son, I had an IUD (Intrauterine Device) implanted for long term birth control. We didn’t have insurance at the time and now with the loss of our main income, it seemed like the most logical and responsible solution. Not only that, I had already been very disappointed in how our marriage was turning out. Since my job was too far away to drive home on my lunch break, I had been escaping to my car to eat so I could get some peace and quiet. I wanted to read a book I had received from my sister’s church. Many chapters in this book challenged my thinking and really convicted my heart.

Lies Women Believe… About Marriage, chapter 6, and Lies Women Believe… About Children, Chapter 7, really caused me to make a decision that would change the trajectory of our lives. I realized that having the IUD implanted might have been reasonable according to the world’s standards, but not according to God’s. Being wise wasn’t my motivation for choosing that method, it was so I wouldn’t be more “stuck” in my marriage. I had been asking God to save my marriage but all the while keeping the back door propped open ready to dart out when the time seemed right. I repented for my lack of commitment and made a doctor’s appointment to have it removed.

I suffered some back lash for the decision. I was even accused of trying to have another baby to save my marriage. In truth, I was just desiring God’s will over my own. I wanted to get out of His way. I even prayed that if He didn’t want me to have it removed, He would allow the appointment to be canceled. If I was right about having it removed, that there wouldn’t be any problems. Well, within days, I began feeling troubling symptoms. A nurse from the hotline I called encouraged me to be seen by a doctor immediately. After I found my way to a nearby ER, I was told the IUD had began to migrate, trying to penetrate through the wall of my uterus. It was removed right away and the symptoms subsided instantly. The following morning I had received a phone call from the doctor’s office. They were informing me that they had to cancel the appointment because I didn’t have health insurance. They said they could implant an IUD without insurance, but couldn’t remove it. As I sat there, jaw dropped to my lap, I realized God had answered my prayer and spoke very clearly to me that I was doing what He had called me to do. He knew they were going to cancel the appointment, against His will, so He miraculously “took” it out Himself! My trust was now in Him alone, not a device. If He wanted to bless us with another baby, He would and if it wasn’t the right time, He wouldn’t.

Just before my two months came to an end, the department manager called me into his office. He had disclosed to me that I had been bought out of the Temp Agency, and he created a position for me. He offered me a full time job with benefits, starting at $35,000 a year. Thankfully I had read Lies Women Believe.. About Priorities, Chapter 5, where Nancy pointed out how valuable and fulfilling the job of a wife and mother are and I knew I longed to be home full-time for my family. Again, finding myself standing on top of the pole, I braced myself to jump and respectfully declined the position. I knew that God wanted me to be home raising our son full-time.

My husband had started a new job just before my two months were finished. We were still struggling financially and the fact that we didn’t have health insurance gave us plenty of reason to panic. It was hard to embrace the security I have in the God of the universe, especially when I can’t even see Him!

Within the next few weeks, I had a great ‘ah ha’ moment. We were at church and during worship, we sang a song based on the 84th Psalm called, Better is One Day. I was reminded that it was better for me to dwell one day in the Lord’s house than 1,000 elsewhere. The Lord was revealing to me that I was in His house, protected by His courts, under His insurance policy, with the provision of His riches. I didn’t need to worry !

The following Wednesday I had received a phone call while I was doing dishes as my toddler played with his cousin who had slept over. It was a man from an engineering firm that John had interviewed with about 8 months prior. Long before he had lost his previous job. They finally had a position for him. I called John and told him to call them back as soon as possible! I couldn’t believe it!

A few hours later, I was talking to my friend over the phone, laughing with her about how a friend from church randomly gave me an extra pregnancy test she had. She said she didn’t need it and she knew they were expensive. We took it as a sign, I dug it from my purse and ran to the restroom…in the afternoon – which most know that’s a terrible time to get an accurate reading! Well, before the 3 minutes were up it had revealed itself to be positive! I hadn’t even missed my first period yet! Just as I was picking it up to read it, I heard my husband coming through the garage door. I was able to announce it with excitement knowing that he had a possible job opportunity in the works. We took the boys for pizza to celebrate!

God wasn’t finished, it gets much better! They didn’t just offer him a job, he was offered a career. His starting pay was what he was already making PLUS $35,000, exactly what I had turned down. Not only that, his health benefits would be available to us his very first day of work! Just in case you were thinking I was foolish for turning down that job, because we’d have even more money. His new career required us to move to another city. Had I accepted the job I was offered, he wouldn’t have been able to accept this much better position.

That was over 11 years ago and God continues to provide for us. I still stay at home raising our now 3 children, full-time and have never regretted my decision. My husband has excelled in his career and is even receiving an award later this month. I couldn’t be prouder of him and more in awe of the loving Heavenly Father we have. And in case you’re wondering about the state of our marriage, that’s for another post! I can give you a hint: happily ever after ain’t got nothin’ on us!

I am reminded and hopefully you are too, that God is faithful and He is worthy of our trust. He often calls us to the top of a telephone pole, calms our fears and stills our trembles. He gets so much glory when we are willing to take that leap of faith off the platform and in to His loving arms! Don’t be afraid, JUST JUMP!

I love you, Poop!

Walk into any retail store right now and you’ll see the explosion of red and pink cascading in front of you, you can’t help to feel obligated to at least grab a box of Sweathearts, Cupid’s arrow is pointed right at you for crying out loud! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Thankfully, Hallmark has given us a great opportunity to express to those we share our live’s with how incredibly important they are to us, and we know that with the busyness of life and the ease of procrastination, many of us can use the nudge!

When my daughter was 3 years old, she wanted me to record a video of her to send to her cousin, who’s 16 years older, and at the end she said, “I love you, Poop!”. She had learned that from the cousin she was sending the message to. What a great example of true love. The reason why is because love isn’t always something that we feel, it’s something that we choose. As we choose to love, feelings follow suit and grow. Culture and fantasy has taught us that love is based on feelings. We have seen movies that promise us a “happily ever after”, there are reality shows where 30 men or women compete, not just for a date with a random stranger, but an actual ring and marriage proposal! Marriages that have produced families are ripped apart because someone just doesn’t “feel it” anymore. We have allowed the idea of love to go from it’s colossal depth of sacrifice and vitality to a level much easier to wade, the meager shallowness of whimsical fancy. Love’s greatest impact isn’t seen when everything is perfect and spectacular, it’s in the midst of heartache, struggle and pain. Love shines brightest when we choose to stay when it’s much easier to walk away. Love isn’t just sharing a monumental kiss at water’s edge under a shooting star. It’s sharing an uphill climb with someone you don’t always like, someone who sees the world different and can be the strength you lack at the moment you need it the most. Choosing to love someone, even if that someone can push your buttons and drive you crazy, that is where magic is made. When you see someone in all their junk, with all their dirt, look deep into their eyes and say, “I love you, Poop” knowing that they smell through the potpourri you hide under and they choose to love you too, that’s the love we all long for.

When I think of the subject of love, I hear God’s Word whispering to my soul.

“Greater love has no one than this; that one lay down his life for his friend.” John 15:13

“For God demonstrated His love for us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Hate stirs up trouble, but love forgives all offenses.” Proverbs 10:12

“…love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back in return. Then your reward will be great…” Luke 6:35

I could go on, but you get the gist. Love is sacrificial. The greatest testament to love is laying down your own life to save another. Where love and marriage are concerned, we vow to love each other through the good times and the bad. For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part. However, no matter how much money is spent on the wedding or how many people are present to share in the celebration of such a moment, less than half of the couples who make that promise actually keep it. It’s not because they are lying, it’s because love is stinkin’ hard! We make these vows with full intentions of keeping them and living the perfect Happily Ever After. Then life happens. Jobs are lost, kids are added, cars break down, water heaters break and lonely hearts wander. Two loving people walk hand in hand down the corridor of life and along the way get so over burdened with juggling so many other things they break away from each other and their laced fingers forget how to reconnect. Although it may be feelings they lack, it doesn’t take feelings to find their way back, it takes sacrifice.

Sacrifice means you choose to endure even when you feel like giving up.

Sacrifice means you humble yourself and share your fears even when you feel like keeping them to yourself.

Sacrifice means forgiving when you feel like holding a grudge or asking to be forgiven when you’d rather be right.

Sacrifice means laying down your wants, your comforts or even your life when you feel like doing the exact opposite.

This Valentine’s Day, before you rush off to the store and buy a heart shaped box filled with mystery chocolates, spend a moment or two thinking about how you can love deeper. How might you sacrifice for those you love?

Will that mean you take off your boxing gloves and raise a white flag so that your damaged marriage can be miraculously healed?

Does that mean you’ll surrender to the one you’ve wronged and ask for forgiveness and admit your fault?

Will you take on the projects your spouse or parent has been nagging you to do so that you can show that a little hard work and elbow grease is nothing compared to sending a message that you’re just too busy.

What can I give up to show my kids that they are important to me and rank higher than things I allow to come before them.

Sacrifice is synonymous with surrender. Love can conquer all when we surrender to it. Let sacrifice be the language we express our love through. In fact, instead of Valentin’e Day, we can call it Sacrifice Day. Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross to save us from our sins because He loves us that much. A box of chocolates is so pathetic when you compare it to the gift of salvation Christ handed over to us by way of the crucifixion. In light of a gesture like that, how can we not push ourselves to do far less for the ones we love… even if the feeling of love is buried so deep we have forgotten it’s there. Trust me, it’s there. It just takes a little light and effort to move things around a bit. As you choose to love, the feelings will eventually be uncovered and shine brighter than they did before.

Happy Sacrifice Day, I mean Valentine’s Day! Make it amazing! ❤