Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful for Trials?!

There are so many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season. There are some obvious things and some that are not so obvious perhaps.

Some things that I am thankful for that come to mind:

The man I know God gave to me, my dear husband, Alan. We have quite a love story (one that I need to share in more depth here on my blog!). A love story that was (and continues to be) undoubtedly written by God Himself! I am blessed!

My precious little son, Andrew. He is nearing 3 years of age. He's the brightest part of our days...joyful, fun, smart and spunky. Thankful for a healthy, growing, constantly learning and making me smile little boy! I often look at him and realize he is the son I always dreamed of!

The precious life that is growing in my womb at this very moment. It's hard to believe that in April we will welcome another little Beran into the world. It's amazing to feel the baby move and knowing that I am nurturing a child's life. I can hardly wait to meet this little person and learn all about him/her! Could we be any more blessed?!!?

I could go on and on. I am so grateful for salvation and the opportunity for ministry this year!! I'm thankful for God's provision and excellence! I am also thankful for my home, our farm, a wonderful extended family (on both sides), dear friends, our wonderful church family, Bible and book studies and the freedom to attend them...the list goes on and on.

Yet, I have found myself focusing on something else this season...something else that I'm thankful for that may not be so obvious...TRIALS. You know, it's easy to be thankful and joyful when all is going right in our lives, but what about when things aren't going just as we planned? Are we thankful then? Not so easy, is it?! It takes a conscience effort on my part.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."

As thankful as I am for this pregnancy and the life that is growing in my womb, you know, I am just as thankful for the baby we lost to miscarriage in September 2008. It was a difficult time. I didn't understand why (and still don't fully understand), but I learned that I don't always have to understand. I learned so much about the LORD and his abundant provision during that time. Without that experience I don't think I would fully understand the hope and peace that only God can give!! It was so beyond me and my thinking. I felt such rest in his presence, knowing that He has a plan and that I can trust His plan for my life.

It was also reassuring to know that our baby was now in His presence (there's no better place to be) and that we will get to meet him/her there someday. Our faith and trust in Him increased. Our babies life was not in drew us into a closer, more intimate relationship with Christ as we chose to trust Him through this difficult loss. A child that I never got to hold taught me so much! Thank you, Lord, for my second chil d!

So, it may sound crazy, but I am thankful for trials...because anything that draws me closer to the LORD is a blessing!!

The LORD says, "I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them." Psalm 92:14-15

Praying for GRACE to continue to remember this as more difficult situations arise. I pray that I can praise Him through the uncertainty and hardships of this life (they are inevitable in this fallen world). That I can remember His faithfulness in past experiences to take me through the next trial. Though tears will come and I probably won't understand, I pray that I can rest in His presence knowing that He is in control and that I can TRUST Him through it all!! He will give me the strength I need...and teach me more about His faithful love!

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Being Still

I orginally posted this back on August 25, 2009. After I shared some random thoughts in my last post and included a little tid-bit on being still, I realized from the comments I received that it "resonated" with others and that I needed a refresher myself. So, I will post "Be Still" again. In the future I hope to share some of my thoughts on why I think it's often so hard for us to be still before the Lord.

Be Still:

One day last week my little son, Andrew, and I went on a long walk through the pasture and along the creek near our home. It was an overcast day; cool enough that we needed to wear our sweatshirts. It had rained that morning so the grass was still wet. I didn’t take my cell phone along. We weren’t on time schedule. I didn’t even have a watch to look at! We weren’t in a hurry.

Andrew gathered walking sticks for us and enjoyed finding rocks to throw in the creek. As we walked along together I found myself in awe of God’s creation. The lush, green grass and a variety of wildflowers growing randomly in the pasture; the rippling water of the creek flowing over the rocks of all shapes and sizes; colorful, fluttering butterflies and rays of sunlight peaking through the trees. Andrew enjoyed exploring every crook and cranny. I enjoyed pointing out the wildlife to him. We even came across a beaver dam.

The sweet silence of nature surrounded us…birds chirping, creek water rushing, the leaves of the trees rustling. My mind was quieted. Peace filled my heart. I found myself praising the LORD internally as I marveled at His creation. It felt as if His arms were wrapping around me. I was so aware of His presence. I was aware of how BIG he is and how small I am. It was a wonderful time of being quiet before the Lord.

I wish I could tell you that this is something I do often. Although I live in a very peaceful and beautiful place, more often then not I tend to miss it because of the clamoring of the world…and the clutter of my own mind. Long walks without a cell phone and without a time schedule don’t often fit into the busyness of my everyday life. Yet, after our walk this week, I found myself wishing that we did this more often!

Psalm 46:10a comes to mind:
Be still and know that I am God!

Be still! How hard that is sometimes…to turn off my brain and just be still. Be still…knowing that he is God. He is in control. He knows my every need. He loves me and wants the best for me. I can trust Him and His plan for my life. He is God…and I am not!

Psalm 46:11a goes on to say:
The Lord almighty is here among us.

Be still! Stop worrying. Stop trying to fix it yourself. Stop over thinking it. Stop getting discouraged when you can’t see the solution. He is God! He is the Lord Almighty and He is right here among us! He is able and we are not.

When was the last time you were quiet before the Lord?

Sometimes we can’t get away for a long walk (although I highly recommend it if you can!). Maybe you don’t even have a pasture or a creek. Pehaps you live among the busyness of city traffic. No matter where you are, all of us can find a quiet place…to be still before God even if it’s only in our own minds.

You can be still before God anywhere not just on a quiet walk. There were many days at my previous workplaces (I recently quit my job to be a stay at home mom and wife) when I would find myself overwhelmed. Sometimes I've felt that way in the middle of a busy place full of people. Sometimes it was because of the stress of the situation where I was, but more often than not it was because of the disarray of my own mind and heart. I don’t know how many days I have stopped and prayed in my mind for God’s peace to rule my heart. God heard my prayers. Once my mind was quiet and my heart was still before the Lord I could see His hand at work throughout the day. By doing this, I took the focus off of me and my circumstances and onto Him and His abilities. He is God!

Psalm 62:5-8:
I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will
not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor come from God alone. He is my
refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times,
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.
I’m looking for more opportunities to be still before the Lord. I want to wait quietly before Him and receive all He has for me.

How about you? Is your mind and heart unsettled? Have you been going to other sources to find peace? Find a quiet place to be still before the Lord today even if it's only in your own mind. He is here among us! He knows you and your needs. You can pour out your heart to Him. You can trust Him. You can put your hope in Him.

He is God!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Random Rachel

I haven't posted on my blog in a while. Bad, bad blogger!! It's not been for a lack of things to write, rather too much going through my mind to choose just one thing. Yet, my thoughts have been random along with my memory (ha) as I'm expecting our 2nd I haven't chosen something to write about. Am I rambling??

Some of the things I COULD write about...

Pregnancy: My suddenly growing belly. Being in between "regular" clothes and maternity clothes. Feeling the baby move. Hearing it's heartbeat this week at my prenatal checkup. Being exhausted. Still feeling nauteous at 17 weeks. Andrew's sweet outlooks on welcoming a new baby brother or sister.

Being Still. It's been a reoccurring theme throughout my week. It seems everything I read brings it to mind again. I believe God is trying to tell me something!! Wondering why it's so hard for us women to just BE STILL before God. Is it because we're afraid of what He might say to us? Even tonight I opened up my Bible and what did I read? "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Being matter what the cost! I read the story of Daniel again a few weeks ago. I started thinking...would I have done what Daniel did? Daniel knew that if he prayed He would be breaking the law of the king and that he would most certainly face a den full of lions...and an excruciatingly painful death. Yet, He chose to do the right thing, obeying The King rather than ungodly human authority! I can just hear my excuses, "But God I have to think of Alan and Andrew. What would they do without me...and besides I'm carrying a baby. You don't want me to put my baby in danger do you? It's not a big deal really. I'll just pray in my mind and no one will get hurt." Daniel didn't do that. He trusted God and because of His love for Him he chose to pray and worship God openly. No matter what the outcome He was better off because he trusted God and did the right matter what anyone else thought of it. Either he would be spared and God would be glorified OR he would die and go immediately into the presence of God. Do I believe and trust like that?! There may be a day in my lifetime that we Christians will have to stand up for what we believe. And we may be persecuted for it. Will I stand in faith (trusting) and do the right matter what?!

Broken Tooth. I had a tooth break off this past Saturday. Not fun! Wondering why I didn't take better care of my teeth. Perhaps if I had maintained them better I wouldn't be having the problems I'm having now. Yet, it seems easy to put these things off and neglect them when things are going well. Then, before you know it you're in a mess. Should have been watching out for the subtle decay. Is there a spiritual application here?! I think so!!

Broken Combine...and long fall season. My husband is a farmer. Today the combine broke down. He didn't get much field work done. This wasn't his plan. In fact, this whole season hasn't gone "as planned." The weather was rainy there for a while. Now, things are taking longer than it seems like they should. The guys were completely done in the field by the end of October last year. Not this year! Yet another reminder that we are not in control! God IS in control! What a great time to put our faith in Him and trust that it will all work out as He sees fit. God is good!!

Oh, I have more...but it's getting late and I need sleep. So, maybe I'll share more random thoughts later. OR maybe I'll try to come up with a post that is a little more "structured." :) Only God knows...and time will tell.

Hugs to my blog friends!

Do not fear anything except the LORD Almighty. He alone is the Holy One. If you fear him, you need fear nothing else. Isaiah 8:13

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Rise & God be the Glory!!

The Rise & Shine Team with Renee Swope and her lovely assistant, Leah DiPascal.
Left to right: Leah, Rachel (me), Jill, Renee, Judy, Leanne
More pictures to come on the Rise & Shine blog.
Dear friends, I can hardly believe that Rise & Shine Women's Retreat is over! I'm still rejoicing in my heart...and mulling all of it over in my mind 3 days later! I've been trying to figure out how to sum in all up in a neat little blog post...not sure that I can adequately express it all in words. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the GREAT BIG, WONDERFULLY FAITHFUL, AWESOME GOD that we serve!

It's hard to believe that back in January there was no such thing as Rise & Shine Women's Retreat. When we met together as a team early this year, Rise & Shine didn't have theme, a logo, a schedule or a plan...Rise & Shine didn't even have a name yet! There was a date booked on the Orchard Hill Church calendar, an idea for a guest speaker and few ideas on what this retreat should look like, but that was it. WOW! What an amazing journey this has been!! God heard our heart-felt prayers and guided us forward...every step of the way!

Friday was a day full of preparation (as much of the previous days had been). There were lots of little details to get in place. I had the honor of working next to Judy most of the day! Then, decorating...WOW, the decorating!! Dianna Geiger is my hero when it comes to decorating! :) The tables in the community center looked absolutely wonderful. I love everything about her taste and style...not to mention her very passionate, fun and Christ-like personality. Her spunk is contagious!!

After the Friday evening practice, production, sound and light check, having dinner with the team and Renee Swope (the guest speaker) and her assistant, Leah; this pregnant girl (who was also fighting off a cold) was soooo tired and my body ached like you wouldn't believe. Yet, the adrenaline continued to flow and my mind would not turn off. I only slept from 1am to 4am that night (well, I guess that's technically morning). :)

I prayed when I was lying there awake at 4 something. I told the LORD that it would only be by his divine intervention if I wasn't exhausted the next day. I asked him to spare me from the pregnancy nausea I'd been experiencing, the chronic neck/back pain I've been fighting for over a year and the over-tiredness I knew was inevitable without His intervention.

Saturday...oh what a day!! It started out with a meeting with all the volunteers in the fabulous Orchard Hill Church coffee house. I had no idea even myself that these coffee house volunteers were going so far above and beyond to serve at Rise & Shine. Wow! The coffee...all sorts of flavors and steeping hot. Not to mention all the homemade muffins and coffee cake to go along with it. Fabulous!

The volunteers (greeters, registration table, book table, breakout reflection facilitators and prayer room partners) blew me away. They were so eager to serve and totally competent to quickly jump into place to serve. Thank you girls!

Women flooded the lobby and community center...some faces were familiar, but many were not. Yet, I knew these were the women our team (and many others) had been praying for this entire year! We had prayed that God would send the women there that He wanted there and that He would prepare their hearts to hear from Him. I may not have known all of these ladies, but God did! I knew they were right where they were suppose to be that day. My heart overflowed with love for them! And with praise to the One who sent them there!

I wasn't sure how much time our team would spend sitting down that day, but everything went so smoothly (thanks to a lot of people!) that we were able to sit through both sessions. As the worship team and band started that morning, I personally felt the Holy Spirit raining down in that place! Although I had previously been a bit nervous about getting up in front of all those people to say welcome from our team, as the worship music continued I felt such peace...and wasn't really nervous at all. That's a pretty big thing for a girl who's not only from a small, rural church where there's about 80 people at an average service, but who also doesn't necessarily like getting up in front of people to talk. Thank you, Lord!

The skit team did an awesome job...making us laugh with a message attached. These girls have a story all their own. They are a group of young women from the same rural church Jill and I attend (also all related to us). These girls stepped out in faith to rise & shine at Rise & Shine!

The worship team and special music was soooo good! They blew me away...with their talent and spirit!

We were blessed to hear guest speaker Renee Swope speak twice at the retreat. Her morning talk was titled, "Becoming the Woman God Created Me to Be." She shared about the woman at the well and finding satisfaction in Christ. I heard loud and clearly that He is the only one who can satisfy. We must position ourselves to receive from Him so we can give to others from the overflow He's given to us. Very relevant for us women!

From there we broke out into "Breakout Reflections." We divided the women up into 8 smaller groups, each with a facilitator to go over some discussion questions from Renee's talk. Our team was very busy during this time so we did not get to participate in any of these breakout reflections. However, from the feedback we've received although each of the groups were different, this was very impactful for many of the women in attendance. It was an opportunity to connect with women (women they didn't even know beforehand) on a deeper level and dig more into the heart of Renee's talk.

Lunch...again, oh wow! What can I say?! Natalie Brown and her helpers from "Scratch" catering outdid themselves! Seriously, the food was phenomenal!! I can't say enough! During lunch women were able to share (and I noticed that they did a lot of this!), visit the book tables, prayer room and Life 101.9s table where the lovely Julia Taylor (their morning show co-host) had positioned herself.

It was now time for the afternoon session. At this point, I couldn't believe it was already 1pm! I thought about all the preparation that went into this day...and there were only 2 more hours left! More spirit filled praise and worship was followed by "The Story Behind Rise & Shine" where Leanne and Jill shared their story...and the original vision of a conference. Good!

After Jackie Beran and Barbie Tupy shared special music with us (and did a terrific job!), Renee Swope took the stage again. This time she shared a talk entitled, "Blessed is She Who Believes." This talk was especially impactful! She spoke about Mary (the mother of Jesus), living beyond the shadow of our doubts by focusing on the light of His truth. I wish I could do this talk justice by what I write here, but there was so many relevant thoughts expressed that I don't think I can sum it up quickly. I think I need another whole blog post for this one! :) Some things that really stood out to me in this talk was, "God does not call the equipped, He equips the called." And it's not that we're able, but that we're available. And that we need to women who don't just believe in God, but who believe God! (AMEN!)

Now, we're to what was probably my favorite part of the day... Renee asked us women to write our doubts, fears, insecurities on an index card and bring them to the cross. We had 2 big crosses set up on the stage, one on each end. I had the privilege of being on one side holding a basket full of promises from Scripture. When the ladies brought their doubts and laid them at the foot of the cross, they picked up a promise from the basket...and Renee had prayed that each woman would pull out the promise (out of 15!) that was specifically for her. As I stood there holding this basket of promises, watching the women line up to bring their doubts to the cross...knowing that this was in response to all that had taken place there that day, I became extremely overwhelmed with praise to the Father! He had shown up there allllll day in a very big way! He had once again shown His faithfulness and provision! The Holy Spirit was strong and some women were weeping. I began to tear up (and I am not a crier!).

Since I was the first woman up there, knowing I need to hold the basket of promises and having women right behind me to pick theirs up, I didn't pull out a promise right away. No, some time along the way, a promise flipped up. I couldn't see what it said, but I felt prompted to pick it up. This was my verse! When I flipped it over, I started to cry. Oh, Lord, you know all things and spoke directly to me, even in this room full of women!!! This verse was meant just for me!!!

After Ann Knapp sang, "Lead Me to the Cross" (so beautifully!), Renee wrapped up her talk. I was crying the whole time! God did this...all of it. I was bursting with gratitude to the people who allowed God to work through them to make Rise & Shine a success. I thanked God for how all the details, big and small, came into place! I thanked Him that He chose me to be a part of something so grand and beyond me! To HIM be the GLORY! I've been rejoicing ever since!!

I've enjoyed hearing the stories from friends and new friends since the retreat. Things that I will continue to rejoice over for a long time to come! Stories from the prayer room, to personal connections and life impacting decisions made. God is good!

My last little praise from the day because I know this is looooong: God answered my prayers. I had NO nausea (despite having very little to eat until after noon), NO neck/back pain (although I've been dealing with that for over a year!), and wasn't even that tired (despite getting very little sleep, previously having a cold...and being someone who normally requires a lot of sleep!). GOD IS GOOD! That may not mean a lot to someone else, but to me God revealed Himself, His love and provision in a very big way!

Will we do it again next year?! Stay tuned for details. For now, we are rejoicing and basking in the after-glow of the day! Praying to see where God leads next.

Want to know how I got involved with Rise & Shine? Click here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Stay tuned...

Well, friends, Rise & Shine Women's Retreat is over and it's soooo hard to believe! I am exhausted (as I'm sure the whole team is) and my heart is filled with Praise! I feel so honored and abundatly blessed to have been part of the planning team! WOW!

I am still searching for adequate words to express the events of the day. For now, I just want to say what an AMAZINGLY FAITHFUL, GREAT BIG, WONDERFUL GOD we serve!!! I am overwhelmed by all that took place!!! More to come very soon...

Will share my thoughts and some pictures in the coming days.