Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas…traditions, memories and focus

I haven’t blogged in a while. Sorry, I haven’t meant to be scarce, but the month of December brings a different focus for me.

December is busy…but in a good way. Busy with the fun stuff that memories are made of. Things like decorating a gingerbread house, stringing popcorn garland, making cutout cookies and wrapping gifts. Andrew and I have been having a lot of fun!





The snow in Iowa puts a twist on things and often makes travel from day to day a bit iffy (thank goodness for online shopping).


In the snow and ice we must make time for sledding (well they sled, I get out the camera and camcorder)! Oh, the joy of living on a gravel road!


Just trying to keep our 8 month old, Noah, away from the tree is a full time job! :) He’s crawling everywhere and pulling himself up to standing these days. He's growing and learning...and is very busy! 


So far his favorite thing about Christmas is the wrapping paper! :) 


I've been very reminiscent the last several days. I think Christmas tends to bring that out in me. I got to thinking about traditions. I don't remember many. I think my mom’s “tradition” was to do something different every year. We did a lot of fun things, usually involving making something, but we didn’t usually do it more than once. She always tried to think of something new and different and fun to do. Which I've realized was a fun tradition!  :)

As I've reminisced about Christmas’ past, I thought of all kinds of good memories…from yearly stockings full to the brim with all the little stuff that I loved (that was my favorite part)...to finding my Christmas presents in my mom’s closet one year and being MORE excited on Christmas Eve than ever because I couldn’t wait to play with that walking, barking dog (that was GREAT technology in the 80s, you know?!) that I had found...to playing “bingo” with my family (siblings, nieces, nephews, etc) every year. I loved being with my family! My mom made every Christmas magical and fun and special! So the one “tradition” I cherish the most is the LOVE that I felt…every year!

One of the greatest memories had to do more with giving gifts than it did receiving them. A very kind woman named, Margie, offered to take me Christmas shopping for my mom. She took me to town, gave me a budget and told me I could pick whatever I wanted for my mom. I loved it! I loved it sooo much! She marveled at how far I could make the dollars stretch.

When I was done picking my treasures, we would head back to her house to wrap the presents. I loved that too! Margie was patient and kind. Her husband, Jim (my mom’s first cousin), was sitting in the recliner when we arrived. I thought he was so nice and I loved his teasing and attention. Wrapping gifts was fun.

I felt like my little heart would burst I was so happy! Just thinking about my mom opening these gifts on Christmas morning simply thrilled me! Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Margie appeared with a gift…for me! I didn’t expect it. I was thoroughly surprised…and sooo happy! It was a Cabbage Patch doll…a real one, not a knockoff, a real one! :) Valerie Imogene, that was her name. She had pretty red hair and I loved her. And I could hardly wait for Christmas Day so my mom could open the gifts I knew she was going to love too.

Margie took me shopping like that for 3 years (if I remember right). My mom still has some of the gifts I picked for her…and I still have all 3 gifts that Margie gave to me. What great memories! And it’s all because someone chose to go out of their way to be loving and kind!! Jim and Margie didn’t have to do that, but they chose to…and that little girl, now a mommy herself, will never forget the LOVE!

Andrew and I have enjoyed a lot of fun Christmas activities together this year (and Noah will join us when he gets old enough). It will be interesting to see what traditions “stick” and which do not. What memories they will have and which ones they will forget. But, above all else I hope they remember the LOVE that surrounded them.

This year, I can hardly wait for our little boys to open their gifts because I know they’re eyes are going to light up. I’m thankful for the time with family and friends. I'm thankful for the time I had with my family in Indiana earlier this month and that we get to spend time with my husband's family later this month.  I pray these very important people will feel the LOVE that I have for them and HIS love shining through me! And that I can find ways to reach out to others like Margie did to me...without expecting anything in return.

So, I guess in short, this holiday season I am trying to spend time focusing on what is most important…LOVE. Although I often fall short and have to start all over again the next day, I’m focusing on my friends and family, my little ones and the little One who was born to die for my sins (and yours). He is the reason for it all! So thankful for the LOVE He showed...and continues to show to us each and every day!

No matter where you are in life...you can choose to do the same!

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8


Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

NO GREATER LOVE!!


What is your favorite memory? Your favorite tradition?
Where is your focus this Christmas? I’d enjoy hearing about it!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, friends!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Praise the Giver

There’s a lot of thankfulness going around this time of year. Yep, it’s Thanksgiving. The one day we dedicate to being thankful…when really we should dedicate every day of the year to it. Many retailers choose to skip right over Thanksgiving to concentrate on the “bigger” holiday, Christmas. I don’t like that. I’ve always liked Thanksgiving. I like concentrating on thankfulness and as a girl who’s love language is “words of affirmation”, I like hearing thank you as well.

When I was growing up, I loved Thanksgiving. We’d get together for a family meal with all the fixings…turkey, potatoes, cranberry salad, yeast rolls, pumpkin pie and about 15 other dishes (give or take a few). Then, came the most coveted persimmon pudding, my mom’s signature recipe. A favorite for each of us four siblings.

One year I remember it was unseasonably warm in Indiana, so we were enjoying our dessert outside. All of a sudden I felt something crawling up my dress. I felt “it” crawling up my chest. Out of impulse, I took the paper plate full of food that was in my hand, brought it to my chest and…I squashed the spider, but I squashed my persimmon pudding too! That stuff’s so good I ate it anyway!!  :)

Like I said, I loved Thanksgiving as a young girl. Still, there were years when I was in my early twenties that I didn’t appreciate the holiday much. Although I liked getting together with family and stuffing my face (hee hee), my heart wasn’t very set on the significance of the holiday. It just seemed like a good day to indulge on food…even more than we normally did.

Several Thanksgiving Days went by without much affect on me. I kept a gratitude journal throughout the year (a wonderful gift from a friend) and I had heard Oprah (ugh!) talk about the importance of being a grateful person…how greatly it would affect my attitude and that of those around me. I was trying too “stay positive”. Still, something was missing.

Who was I thanking? Where was all that gratitude going? A person can be thankful ‘til they’re blue in the face and still be empty, sad and searching for the meaning of it all. I know because that’s where I was!

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17

Every good gift is from God! He is constant and doesn’t change. I’ve heard people say…and I’ve even said it myself, “The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.” BUT, it’s not true…one thing doesn’t change, God doesn’t change. He’s the only thing that is constant, certain and unchanging in this life. What a great reason to praise Him!

My pastor shared a quote with us a few weeks ago, “Praise the Giver, not the gift.” I’m glad so many are thankful. It’s nice that so many are expressing gratitude for all they have in this life. Yet, I’m often left wondering Who are they thanking? Where is that gratitude going? Do they recognize the Giver, and not just the gifts?

I give you thank, O LORD, with all my heart. I will sing praises before the gods. I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. Psalm 138:1-3

Even when things aren’t going so well (yep, had a few of those years too…and we all have our problems in life), do we recognize the Giver of unfailing love and faithfulness? There is always something to praise Him for! He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). He will always love you unfailingly and will be faithful, no matter what! His promises prove true and are backed by the honor of His name.

Henry Blackaby wrote, “Regardless of how bleak your present circumstances are, do not lose hope. No one has ever experienced unfaithfulness of God’s part! Allow time for God to reveal His faithfulness to you. Someday you will reflect on what God has done and praise Him for His absolute faithfulness to you.” Amen!

This Thanksgiving I'm going to praise the Giver!! How about you?!  Let's praise Him...not just for what He’s given to us, but for Who He is…a faithful, loving Father who’s promises hold true. The best way to truly “stay positive” is to look to the Giver of hope! Then, we can praise the Giver for the gifts He has given too! All of us have things to be thankful for, if only we are aware.

Oh, and if you ask me, if we would take more time for some “thanks-giving” (and not try to skip over it), Christmas would probably be a lot better celebration for more of us too.   :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lessons from the Vacuum Cleaner

Today I got out our handy, dandy trusty Eureka vacuum.  I started in our living room.  I swept away...back and forth...back and forth thinking about my to-do list.  It took me a while, but I noticed something...hmm, it didn't seem to be picking up.  The vacuum isn't very old and it normally works very well.  I had a long list of things to do.  I was in a hurry.  I didn't feel like dealing with a problem.  I kept vacuuming.  I kept vacuuming...the same area over and over.  It wasn't working.  There was clearly a problem and it needed to be dealt with.  I thought, "What a hassle!" 

I took off the canister.  Woa!  It was full.  I looked at the filter.  Woa!  It was clogged.  I mean, it was really clogged.  Why hadn't I noticed this before?  Why hadn't I emptied it the last time I used the vacuum?  I wasted all that time trying to vacuum...over and over...with a full canister and a clogged filter.  It only took a few minutes to empty the canister...and just a few more to take a toothbrush to the filter.  I couldn't believe the amount of dirt that I got out of the filter!  I had to vacuum the living room all over again, with my "renewed" vacuum cleaner.  This time it worked beautifully!  I was so glad that I took the time to take care of the dirt and the clog...and wondered why I hadn't done it sooner.

Why didn't I deal with the full canister and clogged filter before..before there was a problem?  I was so busy trying to save time that I wasted time trying to vacuum with a machine that wasn't working to it's full capabilty.  Why didn't I stop to deal with the problem when it arose?  The solution was so simple.  I dealt with the dirt, the clogged up filter, and things went so much more smoothly. 

I believe there' a spiritual application here.  I'll let you figure it out...

I got up early one morning
and rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish,
I didn't have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me,
and heavier came each task.
Why doesn't God help me? I wondered,
He answered, "You didn't ask."

I wanted to see joy and beauty,
but the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I wondered why God didn't show me,
He said, "But you didn't seek."

I tried to come into God's presence,
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
"My child, you didn't knock."

I woke up early this morning
and paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.

Grace L. Naessens

AND I would add to Grace's words that we should also take the time to be in God's Word and to let God's Word get into us.  Going to God in prayer and spending time in His Word...it will help us keep the dirt in our lives dealt with and our hearts "clog" free...allowing us to work to our fullest potential.  :)   

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It is a Choice!

At Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat guest speaker Lysa TerKeurst spoke on being “Prayer-full”. She shared I Thessalonians 5:16-18 with us, Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Lysa shared that joy is not a feeling, it is a mindset…a shift in our thinking. She said, “sometimes our circumstances feel anything but joyful”, but we can choose to be joyful and thankful despite our feelings, despite our circumstances. Lysa said, “Feelings are indicators, not dictators.” So true!

Lysa went on to say that we need to “ask God for our daily portion.” Keep asking, keep believing, keep our eyes and hearts on Him daily. Praying continually shows our daily dependence on Him.

In my breakout group (a small group setting) at Rise & Shine we spent some time digging into Lysa’s message just a bit more. We talked about what being in the center of God’s will meant to us. Of course, being joyful, praying continually and being thankful came up again. One woman pointed out that you can’t really have one without the other…you need all three, they all go hand in hand. When you’re thankful you’ll be joyful, when you’re prayerful you’ll be thankful, when you’re joyful you’ll be prayerful…you get the idea!

I Thessalonians 5:18 does say “for this” (all three of those things mentioned before) “is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” To be in God’s will, we must be joyful, prayerful and thankful. Wow!

As I’ve pondered this more, I realized I had a great example of this growing up. I was brought up by my mom who, by God’s grace, is an extremely grateful woman. Despite some very tough, life-altering circumstances, she chose to see the joy in life. Life didn’t turn out just the way she thought it would, circumstances beyond her control left her a divorced woman and a single mom who was often scraping for money to provide for us. Yet, she constantly pointed out to me (and still does) how God was with us…was blessing us…was providing for us…was showing His love for us. She gave Him such thanks in front of me that I grew up seeing God clearly in those ordinary, everyday moments. Her faith was strong and totally intact despite circumstances. She wasn't necessarily thankful for her difficult circumstances, but she was thankful even in her circumstances! She prayed about everything, she saw how God answered her prayers and was quick to point it out to me as well. Her prayerfulness made her thankful, her thankfulness made her joyful. What an example!

I try to model this for my two young boys as well. It sounds easy doesn’t it? When we’re sitting in a Christian women’s conference being built up, encouraged, refreshed and renewed, it sounds so simple.

Of course we should be joyful always!
Of course we should pray continually (why wouldn’t we?!!?).
Of course we should be thankful in all circumstances.
Of course this is God’s will for us.

It makes total sense! BUT, when we get home, that’s the real test! When things don’t go our way…there are bills to be paid…kids fussing…dinner burning…frizzy hair…telemarketers…rising blood pressure…life can get messy. It’s easy to lose sight of all that joy and thankfulness we felt while sitting at that conference. Or maybe our circumstances are much bigger…like a sick loved one, divorce papers delivered, past mistakes coming back to haunt us…the list could go on and on. No matter what the circumstance, do we choose EVEN THEN by God’s grace within us to be joyful, prayerful and thankful?!

As we pray continually we will see how God gives us just what we need (not necessary everything that we want, but all that we need), then we will be thankful. When we live with a thankful heart, choosing to see past the circumstances to see the blessings in life, then we will live joyfully…always. When we are joyful and thankful we will prayerfully praise God and will pray even more because we will be keenly aware of how faithful He is to answer. They go hand in hand.

November is “Thankful Month” on facebook. Each day I am posting what I am thankful for that day. Honestly, I am so thankful for all that God has done that I find it hard to say just one thing. It has been a great reminder for me! As I think of the things that I am thankful for, I find myself full of joy and then I find myself praising God for it! I have a lot to be thankful for and I believe all of us do…if we only choose to be aware! Thankfulness is not a one month event, it is an every day, moment by moment, forever life changing choice!

Are our eyes open to all God is doing around us? Are we thankful for all the little, “everyday” life stuff that He provides? Do we recognize our blessings despite our feelings? Do we see the joy in this life, in our relationship with Him despite our circumstances? Do we choose to look to Him continually…asking for our provision every day, every moment? Do we say thank you, Lord?

I am thankful for Lysa TerKeurst’s message that has caused me to focus on these Truths. I am thankful God continues to work on these things in my heart. I am thankful that I can choose to be joyful always, pray continually and to be thankful in all circumstances…because this truly is God’s will for me, and you too if you are a believer!!

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again - rejoice! …the Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus…Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Phil 4:4-8
 
What are you thankful for today? 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Rise & Shine 2010 ~ God is Faithful to Answer!!


The Rise & Shine team with Lysa TerKeurst and her assistant Holly Good.
Me, Jill, Lysa, Holly, Judy and Leanne

It’s been a week since Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat and I’m still basking in God’s greatness. I still feel overwhelmed by it all! Not sure that I have adequate words to do it justice. And I know I don’t have adequate words to express the praise in my heart for all that God did there that day! I don’t think I can wrap up the day in a neat little blog post fit with a shiny red bow.  :)   So instead I want to take the time to praise, honor and glorify God for the way He showed up and revealed Himself to our planning team and me personally that day!

Pray, pray, pray and pray some more. That’s what we felt led to do. That’s what we did! And, boy oh boy, was God ever faithful to answer!!

The call to pray more, and more specifically, was heard loud and clear by our planning team this year. I shared a bit about our specific prayers in an earlier blog post, you can read it here.

I knew God would answer our prayers for Rise & Shine, but what amazed me is the way praying for these women blessed ME, the pray-er (and others who prayed as well).

“What a wondrous thing it is when God changes us! says Cheri Fuller. “As the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the focus of our lives, the eyes of hearts are opened, and we see more clearly His faithfulness and His loving-kindness…As we walk with Him, talk with Him, and behold Him daily in our lives, transformation comes. We are drawn closer to Him the more we come into His presence to intercede for others - and in His presence is fullness of joy.”

I agree! I have been changed as I’ve prayed for these dear women, and not only that, I have seen His faithfulness displayed clearly as I’ve heard and read the comments women have made about the ways these specific prayers have blessed them. It’s obvious that God guided our hands (just as we asked Him to) to assign their names to the fruit of the Spirit…and guided our prayers to effect them greatly. God revealed Himself in BIG ways…and I am blown away by His GREATNESS! I am blown away with how FAITHFUL He is to answer our prayers! I am blown away with what a PERSONAL, LOVING Father He is to each of us!! He knows each of us personally and knew right where our names needed to fall on that list…including my own!

I realize that we will probably never know on this side of Heaven about all of the seeds that were planted at Rise & Shine. I believe God was at work in mighty big ways! And I don’t need to see all of it to believe it. However, I did ask God to show us some very obvious answers to our prayers (like He did with the fruit of the Spirit prayers) so that we would know He heard, He answered, that He is faithful…and so that we could give Him all the glory. He did! He is faithful to answer!

We asked God to draw women by His Spirit to Rise & Shine…not a particular number of women, just every woman that needed to be there. There were women there from every part of the state of Iowa and also women from Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, one from Indiana (my mom!) and one from Nebraska who specifically told me that she felt drawn to attend Rise & Shine! :)  It’s not about numbers, but it’s about having the opportunity to minister to women. God is faithful to answer!

We prayed that when women walked through those front doors that morning that two things would be felt strongly there His love and His Holy Spirit. Although we wanted the retreat to be full of depth, we also wanted the women to feel loved on by providing fun things like flavored coffees and cappuccinos, homemade cinnamon rolls, comfy seats, chocolate and pretty decor. I am in awe of God’s goodness as I’ve heard women say that they felt pampered by all the details, were blown away by the love they felt there and how the Holy Spirit was felt so strongly that it couldn’t be denied. Thank you, Lord! You are so faithful to answer!

We asked the Lord to draw women into a closer relationship with Him at Rise & Shine. In the first morning session, our fabulous guest speaker, Lysa TerKeurst, shared her very powerful life testimony. Lysa clearly pointed women toward God. At the end of this time she asked women who had never entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to do so. Each time a woman raised her hand to let Lysa know they had made a new commitment she acknowledged them by saying, “To God be the praise.” I sat at my table with my head down listening to her say, “To God be the praise” over and over and over…31 times she said it. Tears flowed from my eyes as I realized that each, “To God be the praise” represented a brand new life for one precious sister. Later, Lysa told us that she didn’t even say, “To God be the praise” for every woman who raised her hand. This blew us away! How overwhelming! Truly to God be the praise!! God is faithful to answer!

Lysa TerKeurst’s second talk was titled "Prayer-full"! When we first started planning this event and felt the call to pray, pray, pray, we didn’t know Lysa would be speaking on being “Prayer-full,” a talk based on I Thessalonians 5:16-18. Nope, we found this out just a couple of weeks before the retreat. As a few of us met to pray a few days before the retreat, I read the entire chapter of I Thessalonians 5 aloud. Imagine our delight as we realized the chapter surrounding Lysa’s talk mentioned EVERY ONE of the fruit of the Spirit. It boggles my mind to think of how God prepared us and all of the women who attended Rise & Shine through prayer for this Spirit-led message from Lysa TerKeurst. How cool is that?  We didn’t know what Lysa would speak about. Lysa didn’t know what we were praying about. He knew!! He is faithful to answer our prayers as we are obedient in the asking! (P.S. I want to share more about Lysa’s “Prayer-full” talk in another post soon. Lysa spoke Truth straight to our hearts! The Lord is really blessing Lysa and her ministry as she conintues to obey and follow His lead.  Fabulous!).

At the end of the day we asked the women to write a letter to themselves expressing what they had learned at Rise & Shine. We then asked them to seal up those letters, address them to themselves and bring them to the front. They left their letters there and picked up “a letter from God” (a few sentences taken from scripture…along with the scripture reference) to take back to their seat with them. We will mail the letter they wrote to themselves back to them sometime in the days to come. It’s going to be so cool to hear how the Lord uses their own words to remind them of His faithfulness! It has already been so neat to hear from women that the “letter from God” they picked up was just the “right one” for them. This was true for me personally as well! God is faithful to answer!

We prayed that God would be in every part of Rise & Shine…and He revealed Himself in every detail! I was amazed by the way He was seen and heard in the words of Lysa TerKeurst as she shared with us 3 times, the worship team, the smooth transitions of the sound and production people (and all the working equipment), the special music providers, the prayer room, the mouth-watering lunches from Scratch Bakery (you ain’t never had a cupcake ‘til ya had one from there!!), the wonderful volunteers who gave of their time, the beautiful d├ęcor, the “breakout reflections” time. Yes, His glory was revealed through every detail…big and small; through the talents and time given to honor Him! When we do the work He asks of us, He is faithful to answer!

On Monday, after the retreat, Lysa TerKeurst shared on her blog a story that she shared with us at Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat (and mentioned meeting some of us crazy women who live amongst cattle and fields and 45 miles from Wal-Mart! hee hee) Her post was titled, “Our Job is Obedience. God’s Job is Results.” Oh, how true! Oh, how appropriate! As we’ve been obedient to follow God’s promptings in our hearts, He has been faithful to answer! Thank you, Lord, for working through so many people to make Rise & Shine happen. The results are Yours and we are thankful!! To God be the glory!!

Rise & Shine was a lot of work, but it’s such a privilege to have a “front row seat” to bask in God’s glory…to see direct answers to our prayers, how God blessed women and every part of the day!

I’m now praying that each seed that was planted at Rise & Shine, whether it be a new commitment or a deepened revelation of who He is, will be watered and come to full fruition in the lives of the women who attended.  I pray that all of us will remember that "rising" up to who God created us to be and "shining" His light with our life is more than a one day event!  And I know God definately is faithful to answer!!

Is God asking you to be obedient in a certain area in your life right now? What is God prompting you to do? What BIG thing are you praying for right now? God is faithful to answer when our requests are pleasing to Him and we come to Him in faith believing!! Go to Him and keep going to Him again and again…leaving the results in His hands!

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. I John 5:14-15


A few more personal notes (I just can't stop!!):


I loved the personal connections that I made with other women and the connections I saw others making! This was an answer to prayer. He is faithful to answer!


I loved how God prepared me as a breakout facilitator…I didn’t know how to prepare, but EVERY subject that came up during that time was something He had been working on in my heart in the days prior. WOW! He revealed Himself to me personally in that way as well! He is faithful to answer!


As we gathered in the prayer room to pray on Saturday morning, one of the gals from the prayer team said something like, “Before this day is over, this is going to be Holy Ground! They’re going to want to take their shoes off when they walk in here.” I thought, “Wow!” and said a quiet prayer in my mind that those words would be true. At the end of the day, a new friend of mine said to me, having NO IDEA what was said earlier that day, “Earlier when I walked in here (the prayer room) the Holy Spirit was so strong that it about knocked me off my feet. I felt like I needed to take off my shoes. This is Holy Ground!” Wow, wow, wow! God, you are so good!! You are faithful to answer!


Sorry this is soooo long, but I have so much to say…so much more I could share, but I have to stop somewhere. More to come soon. 

Thank you, LORD, for the way you work and move in our very ordinary, very real lives!  I am amazed and blessed to be part of something so beyond me!!  Thank you for hearing us and being faithful to answer our prayers!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

So Much To Say...

I can hardly believe it's Wednesday already...and I haven't even posted anything about Rise & Shine!!  I have so much to say, but I'm still feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.  I'm still basking in God's Faithfulness!!  I will share more soon.  I have a lot to say, just not the time or words to express it all yet.  :)

For now, I will give you some other sources to read...

This is what I wrote on the Rise & Shine blog.
This is what our guest speaker, Lysa TerKeurst, wrote about her time at Rise & Shine!  A great post!!
Teske Drake who brought a fabulous group from Mommies with Hope to Rise & Shine..shared her top 10 of the weekend.  Love!

More to come...stay tuned! :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Goodness Gracious!

Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat is only 8 days from today!! As we’ve prepared for the retreat the call to pray over the beautiful women who will attend has become increasingly apparent this year. We prayed for them earnestly last year as well, but this year we felt God impress upon our hearts to pray for each of them specifically BY NAME.

We wanted to pray specific scripture truth over each of them…and felt directed to Galatians 5:22-25, the Fruit of the Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS and SELF-CONTROL. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:22-25

As registrations have come in, we’ve prayed for God to guide our hands to assign the names to a specific “fruit” that will be especially meaningful to that woman. Although we don’t know many of these women personally, we know God does and He knows just what each of them need. We’ve prayed that all of the fruit of the Spirit will be displayed in and through them. Then, that God will work on this one particular fruit in a very special way in their lives at this time.

Let me tell you, it has been such a blessing to pray for these dear, dear women. What is amazing to me is that while praying for them, my faith has been increased. As I’ve prayed for them to be blessed, I, myself, have been blessed, shaped and changed. Prayer is powerful because God is powerful!

That being said, I have a confession to make...I was kind of surprised when my name fell under “goodness”. At first, I though, “Goodness gracious, my name fell under goodness! Really, God? Goodness? I mean, I know I need some love, joy and peace…but goodness? I’m good, right?!” I know, I know, how arrogant of me, right?! I’m just being honest here.

Within a few moments I realized the error of my ways. I knew we had been praying for each name to get assigned to just the “right” fruit and I knew that included my own. I said, “I’m sorry, Lord. I know there must be a reason my name fell under goodness. Please show me.”

I realized I probably needed a better understanding of the word “goodness”. I sat down with the definition of goodness, “what is beneficial, being good; moral excellence or virtue; integrity, uprightness.” I looked up “moral excellence”, “virtue”, “integrity”, and “uprightness” for further clarification. Then, I looked up these scripture references…

I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness. Psalm 119:40


Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6

For the light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Eph 5:9

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. Prov 3:27

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Rom 12:21

I started asking myself some questions, Do I long to obey His commandments? Do I only say and do what is beneficial? His goodness and unfailing love are pursuing me, am I really aware? Does the light within me produce only what is good, right and true? Do I help others when it’s within my power, or am I too busy to even notice sometimes? Do I conquer evil by doing good? Is my life marked by His goodness…moral excellence, virtue, integrity, His righteousness? It became clear. I said, “Oh, LORD, I do desperately need your goodness to fill my heart and life! I need more of You and less of me.”

In the past few weeks it seems everything I’ve read or heard has to do with “God’s goodness” and the need I have for it. His goodness and unfailing love are definitely pursuing me…and I’ve noticed. From an e-mail devotional titled, “Do You Hate Sin?” to a chapter titled, “Speak the Truth” in a parenting book I’m reading, have shown me even more clearly the need I have for God’s goodness…what is good, right and true.

Goodness gracious, God! You are soooo good!! You know how to meet us right where we are!

What about you? Is your life marked by the goodness of God? Can others see Him in you, just by the things you do and say? Do you speak the truth in love? Do you long to obey His commandments which means hating sin? Do the things that offend Him, offend you? Do you help others when you can and conquer (which means overcome) evil by doing good? If we have made a commitment to love, honor and serve Jesus, then our lives should be marked by the Fruit of the Spirit...His Spirit living in and working through us.

Each of the fruit of the Spirit are important, but I know “goodness” is where my name was suppose to fall on that list…and just what the Lord wanted to work on in my heart and life at this moment in time. I pray that each of the women who will attend Rise & Shine on October 30th will find the “fruit” that has been prayed over them to be just as revealing and relevant as I have.

Goodness gracious, God! You are so good! Thank you for knowing each of us so personally! Thank you for being a loving Father who wants to grow us, stretch us and love on us every chance you get! Thank you for pursuing us with Your goodness and unfailing love. Thank you for revealing to me the need for more of Your goodness in my life. Reveal to me other areas that need work. I pray you will reveal areas that You would like to work on in the lives of those who are reading this as well. Thank you for loving us just the way we are, but also loving us enough not to let us stay there. Thank you for filling me and my Christian sisters with Your Holy Spirit…and reminding us to follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

P.S. If you’re attending Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat please visit the prayer room to find out what “Fruit” has been prayed over YOU specifically by name. We’ll have cards with the “Fruit“, the definition, and scripture references to go along with it. We believe it will be just one of so many blessings in store for you that day!!

If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can choose to do so today. I would love to talk to you about it rachel.beran@yahoo.com

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Listen to Me!

“Listen to Mommy!” I said to my 3½ year old son, Andrew…AGAIN. Andrew had a rough day; things just didn’t go his way, he was testing the waters (testing me) and I didn’t like it. We had a little heart to heart talk, several times throughout the day. I heard myself saying things like…

“Andrew, if you would just listen to me things would go a lot better for both of us.”

“Andrew, please just listen to me. Mommy doesn’t like getting after you, but it’s my job to teach you right from wrong.”

“Andrew, why aren’t you listening? Who’s the boss, me or you?”

That night as I tucked my little blondie into bed, his piercing blue eyes staring into mine, I said, “Andrew, I love you so much, that’s why I want to teach you right. I want us to enjoy each other and have good days together. Please listen to me. Let’s have a better day tomorrow, okay?!” He said, “Alright, Mommy. I love you too.” Which was followed by a big hug and kiss that simply melted my heart.

Just look at this cheesy, mischievous grin!

The next day was much better. Andrew listened (for the most part) and our home was peaceful. 

I dislike correcting my son, it doesn’t make me feel good. At the same time, I know I must correct him when he doesn’t listen. It is my job to teach him and if I don’t do it, he will never grow to be the man God created him to be. God gave me (and my husband as well) this authority and responsibility. The growing process can be hard, but it is necessary. Because I love him, I will teach him right from wrong.

It hit me hard…this must be how God feels about me! Sometimes I’m outright defiant. I want to do it my own way. Things don’t go so well, and then I wonder why.

It’s as if he’s saying to me, “Why don’t you listen? Things would go a lot better for both of us if you would just listen. Please just listen, I don’t like correcting you, but because I love you I want to teach you my ways so that you can grow. Who’s the boss, me or you?!” YIKES!

My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves…”
Hebrews 12:5-6

Who’s the authority…who’s in charge? Our loving Father corrects us, the growing process can be difficult, but it must take place if we ever want to grow to full maturity. We do things our own way, and then wonder why things aren’t going so well for us. He says, “Follow me!”

How about you? Do you feel convicted in any areas in your life? Is your loving Father correcting you? Will you listen and learn? His way is the best way! Is He gently and lovingly correcting you. He’s saying, “Just listen to me.” He’s helping you grow into the person He designed you to be.

It is a new day. Repent of (turn away from) your sin (whatever it is) now! Be forgiven by your loving Father…and go forward! His mercies are new EVERY morning!

Oh, and if we keep on listening, there will be much better days ahead!  :)

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Friday, September 24, 2010

Everyday Moments

Lately I have been praying to see God, to be used by God, to be aware of His presence in those ordinary, everyday moments of my life.

In Sunday school this week, I shared the story of baby Moses with my kindergarten girls. As I shared, I thought of all the ordinary moments that led to some very extraordinary events in God’s big plan.  You probably know the story...

A mother, trying to save her baby takes a basket lined with tar down to the river. She put him in the basket and into the water believing and trusting that God would protect and preserve her baby’s life somehow (but not knowing how!). I believe Moses’ mother must have prayed for guidance on what to do. Otherwise, what would possess you to do this?

The mother leaves Moses’older sister, a young girl named Miriam, in charge of watching him from the reeds. Miriam didn’t know she would be used by God that day, she was simply obeying her mother’s wishes to watch her baby brother. But, when the time was right, God impressed upon her young heart, just the right thing to do and say…and without fear she stepped up to the challenge. She spoke up and made a request of the princess who found him.

Even the princess didn’t know that anything out of the ordinary would take place on that very ordinary day. She went about her normal activities…this time going to the river to take a bath. But, what happened next changed the course of history. I have no idea what the princess’ relationship was or was not with God, regardless He must have impressed something upon her heart, causing her to feel love for this baby as she opened the basket. You know she could have ordered her maidservants to deliver him to her father, the king, who ordered that all of the Israelite baby boys be put to death, she didn’t!

God was watching over baby Moses, his mother, his whole family…and an entire nation of people! As you probably know, Moses became a mighty man of God and he lead the Israelites out of slavery…and towards the Promised Land. God had a plan for Moses’ life and he used many others to get him there.

God still works like this today! Psalm 33:15 describes God’s watchful care, “He has made their hearts and closely watches everything they do.” He isn’t some distant, far off God. He is a personal, loving Father.

The other day I sent an e-mail to a dear friend who is going through a tough time. I told her that I would pray for her, added a scripture for some encouragement and closed the note. At the end, I wrote out the prayer that was in my mind and heart at that moment. I didn’t intend to, I just did. A few days later I saw my friend. She hugged me tightly and declared that my e-mail was just what she needed…especially the prayer at the end. She told me that she printed out the e-mail so she could look at it again and again. She even showed it to some of her friends and they were blessed. I thought, “Wow, what did I write?!” I had forgotten all about writing out the prayer at the end. I still don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but that’s okay. God knew just the words she needed at that moment!

One day this week I was in Mc Donald’s play place with my sons. There was another mom there who seemed lonely and I felt led to talk to her. I prayed in my mind for guidance and words. Before I knew it, she struck up a conversation. We talked…and I’ve been praying for her ever since. I think it’s just what she needed.

Yesterday evening, I sat down on the floor in my living room near where my boys were playing, to read a Christian book about parenting. As I read the book this question crossed my mind and heart, “What do my kids learn by watching me?” I was praying about this in my mind, telling God that I often feel like I fail in this area. Within a couple of minutes Andrew, my 3 year old, ran into the other room, grabbed his preschool devotional book and said, “Mommy, we need to read my devotions!” I asked, “What made you think about that right now?” He said, “That’s what you’re doing.” Wow, God, you are good!! Thank you for the reassurance that sometimes with your help I do “get it right.” That’s just what I needed to hear at that moment!

I am not telling you this to brag on myself!! I am telling you this to brag on God!! Many times I fail. It is by God’s grace that I “got it right” in these moments. I’m flawed and sinful; I get wrapped up in myself many days. Yet, it’s amazing to me how He can use me, a VERY ordinary woman, to speak His words to a broken heart, to live His message out loud in everyday moment…that is: when I’m obedient to His prompting.

The remarkable thing is not that I sin, but that, in spite of my sin, I am capable of having fellowship with God and being used by Him for His purposes in the world.” Ibid., 102

God works in our very real lives…whether we’re working on some big ministry project or sharing encouragement with a friend via e-mail, facebook or on the phone. Planning a missionary trip to some far off country or simply (which is not so simple at all!!) being a missionary to those in our lives right where we are, every day (starting #1 with our family!!). God is THERE…in the big things and the small. He’s with us in the everyday moments of life. He is interested in EVERY detail of our days. That’s why he tells us to “pray about everything” in Phil 4:6! It’s amazing and humbling to watch Him work through us when we follow His lead.

How are you seeking Him daily? Do you believe He cares about every detail of your life? How are you being watchful of and prayerful about what He wants to do in, through and around you today?

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me…you know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts…you see me when I travel and when I rest at home…everything I do…know what I’m going to say before I say it…you go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand. Psalm 139:1-6

Yes, it’s too great for us to really understand, but it’s TRUE! Thank you, Lord, for caring about every detail of our lives…knowing just what we and others need at every moment! Please help us to be more sensitive to Your promptings in these everyday moments of life, living to serve and honor You rather than focusing on ourselves. Thank you for loving us and working through us despite our failures and flaws. We love you, Lord! Amen.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Looking Too Far Ahead...

One of my earliest memories involves my teenage brother, a gravel road, a little red wagon, a big red dog and an irrational fear.

I’m not sure exactly how old I was. What I do know is we still lived on a gravel road out in the country, we moved to town a month before I turned 3 years old. I was young! My big brother, Josh, was taking me on a walk, pulling me in a little red wagon. We looked down the road a ways…where we were headed, there was what looked like a BIG BLACK CREATURE heading our way. My brother pointed it out to me, I was immediately scared to tears.

What could it be?! Josh wanted the two of us to go see, but I cried, “No!” He said, “Stay here…and I’ll go see what it is.” I was so scared! What if this vicious creature devoured my beloved brother. What if it came to eat me?! My little heart and mind was full of fear!

I watched at Josh walked…finally reaching the “creature”. To my surprise he started walking back my way WITH the creature at his side. Was he crazy?! As they approached the creature’s form started to take shape. My fear changed to delight…a BIG RED DOG!!

Note: I sure didn’t trust Josh much, did I? I should have trusted him more. He was trustworthy. It wasn’t at all what I thought!!

I hopped out of the wagon to meet my new friendly dog friend. He was obviously a young dog, full of spunk and energy. I remember him licking my face as I giggled. What a pleasant surprise!  I liked him so much and wanted to keep him. We fed him bologna (a nutritious meal for a dog, don’t ya think?!).

This 30 something old memory is very vivid. But, when I think of it, I am reminded that things aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes we look too far ahead in the future! Sometimes we project what we think might be, when we have no idea what really will be! We spend so much time looking ahead, worrying, trying to figure it all out.  Wanting to know how it will all play out. 

Jesus said, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it’s own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. What we do know is WHO has our future in His hands!

"For I now the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

We don’t have to be consumed with irrational fears. We don’t have to have it all figured out. We just have to TRUST. Read what Jesus said just before he said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33

Take it one day at a time! It’s okay to make our plans and have goals, but really it’s most important that we follow Him day by day, moment by moment. Looking too far ahead can be overwhelming. However, today we can seek Him and His righteousness above all else. We can find peace, hope and purpose in the daily routine of our lives. We have no idea what tomorrow holds, so why not live life to the fullest…obeying, trusting, loving, and serving today.

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

I’m not saying we should just sit where we’re comfy looking ahead at the “big creature,” never getting out of the wagon. No, I’m saying, trust the puller of the wagon! Don’t look too far ahead, trust Him just for today, just for this moment…and you may be surprised what good thing comes out of it. It’s probably not going to turn out the way you thought! But, you can bet He has a plan and you can TRUST Him…one day at a time!

Lord, I will serve you just for today...not looking too far ahead, trying to figure it all out.  I know You have a plan for my life and that I can trust You and Your plan.  Thank you for loving me, giving me a future and a hope.  Give me the strength, wisdom and revelation to follow You closely each day because that's what this life is really all about.  Amen

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

But God...

Last Friday Alan and I celebrated our anniversary. It’s been six years since we said, “I do.”

Just look at us all bright eyed and bushy tailed...

The wedding ceremony had just ended, I laid my head down on
his shoulder. We were so happy (and Alan was thrilled to get 'er done). 
This is my favorite wedding picture.

We hadn’t known each other very long. We met on the internet, on a “Christian” website. Alan and I aren’t necessarily big advocates for internet dating, but in our case, it was simply the tool God used to bring us together. It was my first week on the website and Alan’s last. I only paid for one month. I often joke that, that was the best $9.99 I ever spent! :)

We met face to face at the end of April, got engaged at the end of June and married at the end of August. What a whirlwind romance! Yet, I was never more sure of anything in my life! Alan felt the same way, the first time we met he told a friend that he had just met the girl he was going to marry. It all seemed so crazy, but I knew God had brought Alan into my life. I knew, I just knew he was the answer to my prayers (and yes, I had been praying them)!

Some people couldn’t believe it when we said we were engaged…and getting married in 2 months. For me, marrying Alan would mean moving from Indiana where I was born and raised, to Iowa, 8 hours away. It would mean moving from town to a farm…being a farmer’s wife, something I knew very little about. I’m not normally one to make rash decisions, but I knew, I just knew, this was where God was directing me.

We were married on August 27, 2004. We had “Only God Could Love You More” sung. Although I believed those words to be true that day, it seems strange how much more true those words are today. I stood there looking at Alan as my brother sang the words of that song, thinking of the wild turn of events that had brought us to that day. It seemed like a dream, but I knew God had made it my reality.

We went to Cancun on our honeymoon. We learned a lot about one another and a bit about conflict resolution on that trip. He ended up with “Montezuma’s Revenge.” I lost one of the lenses from my prescription glasses (the ones I’m as blind as a bat without!!) in the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, the memories! :) Actually, it was a great trip with only a couple minor (okay slightly major) obstacles to overcome.  It was just the beginning of challenges that face all married couples, but God gave us the grace and wisdom we needed!

The months to follow were sometimes challenging and often very fun as we learned what married life was really all about. Sometimes the growth process can be hard, and we did a lot of growing, adjusting and changing as those first couple of years passed. We have faced some bumps in the road, but God continues to bless us, stretch us, and grow us…closer to one another and closer to Him! We have learned a lot about true love, sacrifice and patience. I can even drive a tractor now when I need to.  ;)



Six years…time flies when you’re having fun, sharing life with your best friend! Our images have changed a bit, we’ve matured in more ways than one. :) We’ve even added a couple of children to the mix, our two precious boys. Another abundant blessing! Ironically, Alan and I both feared that we wouldn’t be able to have children, but God had a different plan.

Andrew's busy learning new things...

Noah's showing off his first two teeth...

We are thankful because we know God brought us together, no doubt! We are thankful for all of God’s blessings as we’ve continued to seek Him! We are thankful because we know He holds our tomorrow as well! None of it would have been possible “…but nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

HAPPY 6th Anniversary, honey! It’s more true today than it was then, only God could love you more!! Here’s to 60 more!!  I love you!
 
What are you beliving God for right now?  What are you praying?  Let me tell you, meeting Alan didn't happen "fast enough" for me.  In the mean time, I tried taking things into my own hands...and made a big mess for myself.  When I stopped trying to do things on my own, and surrendered my life to Him, things changed for me!  Perhaps you know what you want your life to look like, but are you surrending it to God?  I'm a witness here to tell you, His plans are way better than ours!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who I Was, Who I Am

It's been a long time since I had written a poem...years. However, yesterday as I made the long drive from my home to my favorite chiropractor's office, I began to think about the grace the Lord has showered upon me.  I thought about the sin of my past, where I was...where I was headed and I became overwhelmed with thanksgiving.  I found myself praising God and thanking Him for His redemption.  Before I knew it, words to a poem started flowing.  I scrambled to find a pen and piece of paper in the vehicle console.  I found them and began to scribble the words on tiny corners of this already written on sheet of paper.  Note: this was very safe as I drove along the highway (probably worse than text messaging while driving!).  :)  The words were barely legible, but they were there...for me to decode when I got home. :) 

I haven't been a very consistent blogger for some time now...so many things to write about just haven't taken the time to post them.  I will get back in "the swing of things" some day.  For today, I wanted to share my poem with  you.

Who I Was, Who I Am

My heart aches as I think of who I once was,
The empty, dreadful person I have been,
Doing as I pleased - wretched, wandering.
My life was boldly full of self and sin.

I was entangled by my own selfishness,
Ignorantly thinking I was independent and free,
So overcome by the world’s fleeting joy,
A noose around my neck, yet I could not see.

Sorrow fills my being as I think of where I was,
Yet, joy and gratefulness fill me more as I pray.
Consumed by forgiveness as I go to my Father,
His grace frees me to close the past, focus on today.

Praise God! His amazing grace falls fresh on me,
My sins are washed away and long gone.
I have put on His cloak of righteousness,
Filled with His Spirit, power and a new song.

No condemnation, no fear or doubt,
No use to hold onto who I was then,
I am forgiven, set truly free for eternity,
Dread replaced by praise; self replaced by Him.

Not living by my own weak, limited ability,
Rather, depending on His strength that fills,
Knowing nothing is impossible for those who believe.
My future is bright as He shines the light that heals.

I am not who I was because I have the “I AM,”
No longer have to live in shame and sin,
He loves me just as I am, yet helps me to change,
Growing, changing, knowing who I am in Him.

Written by Rachel Beran  8-23-10
(Please do not use without permission from Rachel Beran)

Do you know His Amazing Grace?  What does it mean to you?  If you do, thank Him today!  If you do not, what are you waiting for?  It's a free gift and you'll never regret reaching out to take it!  If you would like someone to pray for/with you, I am always available.  E-mail me rachel.beran@yahoo.com

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's a Dare!

“Have you ever let yourself dare to believe that Jesus would love to show Himself to you?” Lysa TerKeurst

This summer I’ve been co-facilitating a women’s book study. We’re reading “Becoming More Than A Good Bible Study Girl” by Lysa TerKeurst. It has been a wonderfully, enlightening study that I highly recommend to all women!

This week we discussed how God wants to help us in “Our Struggles” and then moved into “Our Thoughts.” This week Lysa asked the question above. It’s worth repeating, “Have you ever let yourself dare to believe that Jesus would love to show Himself to you? Not in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense.”

What do you think? Have you dared to believe this? Have you ever even thought of it? Does this sound radical to you?

My eyes have been opened recently to the fact that many Christian women; women who have asked Jesus into their heart; women who go to church and study their Bibles; women who have truly made a commitment to honor, serve and love Jesus don’t believe this, not truly. This sounds like a radical, outlandish idea to many. Some have never even had it cross their minds. Why would Jesus love to show Himself to us?! Maybe the more appropriate question is, “Why not?”

We were created in the image of Jesus. We are the children of God, co-heirs with Jesus (his siblings!!). If we are “born-again” (asked Jesus to be our Savior) we have the Holy Spirit (God’s own spirit!) dwelling within us…and we can operate in the power of it!

A scripture passage most of us have heard and know well, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6

In my own words: trust Him with ALL your heart (holding nothing back), do not depend on your own limited understanding (instead seek His vast, all knowing, complete understanding). Acknowledge Him in everything you do (all day, every day make the choice to see, hear, feel Him working in all you do, say, think) and He will show you the way to go. How can He show you if you’re not even looking for Him?! He wants to show Himself to you…show you His path for your life, but first you have to be looking!

Jesus is not seeking people to follow a religious routine, He’s seeking people who are “sold out” believers; daring to believe that He is real and actively working in our lives! He wants a relationship with us. That’s why He created us! Have you ever had a successful relationship with someone who didn’t want to reveal things about themselves to you? Of course not!

As Lysa wrote in Chapter one of “Becoming More Than A Good Bible Study Girl”, “Setting our hearts and our minds on God and letting His truths change us, rearrange us, and redirect us will help us not just to know the message of Christ - but to live it out loud!” Amen!

I don’t think it’s too radical at all to believe that Jesus wants to show himself to us. He is a real and personable Lord! He hears our prayers (Ps 34:15). He loves and cherishes us (Is 43:4). He understands the groaning of our hearts (Rom 8:26). He delights in every detail of our lives (Ps 37:23). Why would a God who knows us so personally; One so loving and kind; not want us to know more about Him? Why wouldn’t He want to make Himself and His presence obvious in our daily lives?

Who wants a stale, ritualistic religious routine? I’d prefer a vibrant, thriving personal relationship with a loving Savior who wants to show me just how real He is in my very real life! How about you?

“Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.” James 4:8

***Does Jesus want to show Himself to you? Of course He does! Dare to believe it, sister! It will change your life!!***

God, I want to see You.  God, I want to hear You.  God, I want to know You.  So that I can follow hard after You every day.” A prayer by Lysa TerKeurst


P.S. Lysa TerKeurst will be at Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat in October! Check out the link above!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sweet Williamine

A dear lady friend from our church passed away on Wednesday evening. Williamine Woolworth was 97 years young.


Williamine was a woman you could always count on to share her words of wisdom and encouragement. After the service on Sunday morning she would greet me (and everyone else) with a handshake and big smile. The love of Jesus came shining through her each time our paths crossed!  I often asked her how she was doing, and although I knew many days she wasn’t feeling well, she wouldn’t complain. Instead she would praise the Lord, then say something like, “Well, I’m 97 years old, you know?" :)

I met Williamine 6 years ago when I first came to this church.  The more I got to know her the more I appreciated her and the godly example she set for us younger women. Although I didn't know her in her younger years, it was apparent that she had spent many years loving and serving Jesus, and that she had spent much time getting to know him personally down through the years.  Her relationship with Him wasn’t just a religious routine, it was real and very personal! She had a good understanding of God’s Word…and was swift to live it out and share what she knew with anyone who would listen. Although her body had aged, her mind was sharp!

At her age, having faced a couple of big falls and some health issues, she hadn’t given up on being productive and evangelical. She was still sharing the love of Jesus with others around her. Just 2 or 3 years ago she took it upon herself to raise money for a Christian women’s organization to combat abortion (an issue she felt strongly about). She filled out and mailed little cards to several women requesting a small donation, hoping to raise just a little bit of money. She was so pleased to share with me that with my donation she had raised $100.00 to send in (a lot more than she had ever hoped for). She told me that at her age there weren’t a lot of things she could do, but that was something she could do…so she did it. Amazing!  I'm sure she did many other things like this that I don't know about.

Williamine had also not become stale in her walk with the Lord. She wanted to continue to learn and grow in Him. This was apparent as she participated in women’s Sunday school. She even registered to attend Rise & Shine Women’s Retreat last year! Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to attend because she felt ill that weekend. Still, she set an example before me, reminding me that no matter what age we are, no longer how long we’ve served the Lord, we never “arrive.” We keep seeking more of Him!

Even in the last couple of months I had a few opportunities to talk with Williamine. As I said before she was such an encouragement. This was something that came naturally for her. She wasn’t a woman who “tickled your ears.” No, she was rather to the point and said what she thought, so getting a compliment from her meant a lot. A couple of times she encouraged me as a leader. Another day she encouraged me as a young mom with two small boys. Her words caught me off guard, but I stored them away in my heart. They meant so much coming from such a godly Christian lady! I felt like I was hearing the words from Jesus himself, it was Him speaking through her. These words were just what I needed at the moments she shared them.

Just a few weeks ago I found myself chatting with Williamine again after church. She told me that she didn’t know why the Lord was allowing her to continue to live. She said she didn’t know what her purpose was, but she knew that He must still have something for her to do, that He must not be done with her yet! I was (and am) thankful for the chance to tell her how I felt. I said, “I know one reason for sure, you’re such an encouragement to all of us here. Each week you come here with your big smile, words of wisdom and encouragement. Many times you have been an encouragement to me.” She thanked me with a smile on her face and a gleam in her eye (which she often had!). Then, she shared that I wasn’t the first person who had said something like that to her that day. My eyes tear up even as I write this. I'm so grateful I got the chance to tell her how special she was!  What an incredible lady, still wanting to be used of God, seeking His guidance and will for her life even at the very end. 

I am rejoicing that Williamine is now in the presence of Jesus, praising the very One she has been serving all these years. She’s completely whole, no pain or sorrow. Praise the Lord! I look forward to seeing her again someday!

At the same time, my heart aches for her beloved daughter, Alice. Even though Alice knows their parting is temporary and that her mother is in a much better place, she is going to miss her dearly. Please keep Alice in your prayers as I am as well.

As I have thought about Williamine so much the last couple of days, and have reflected on the life she lived, I feel challenged. I want to be remembered like Williamine will be remembered. I don’t want to just live my life being a “good person” who did “nice things” for people. That’s all good, but way more than that I want to be a woman who is remembered for the way she served the Lord…living out His message in daily life, in big and small ways. To be called a godly, Christian woman! To never quit looking for new opportunities to serve others in Christ’s love, no matter where I am in life, no matter how old or young, well or ill, able or unable. To remind others of how good He is, being content, even while going through tough life circumstances. To share life giving words with others, not just tickling their ears, but for God’s words to fill my lips. To inspire others to seek Him more, always! To teach others by example!

Williamine was a Titus 2 woman…
“…teach the older women to live in a way that honors God…The older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good…” Titus 2:3-5

I want to be a Titus 2 woman as well! I’m thankful that Williamine lived this out for me to see, teaching me in word AND deed! I bet she has the most beautiful crown!!

Do you know a Titus 2 woman? If so, thank her for her influence today. Are you a Titus 2 woman yourself? Let’s strive to serve Him and others as God’s Word directs us!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Push Past

My little Noah turned 3 months old on Tuesday. That same day he decided to roll over for the first time when I was away at book study. I was pretty sad that I missed this “first” for him, but reminded myself that I’ll get to see him do it many more time.


The next day, I watched as he worked so hard to get his body to cooperate with his goals. The look of concentration on his face was priceless. When I laid him down on his back, he would push with his foot and easily roll over onto his side, making great strides towards his belly. Then, he came to a halt as his pesky arm got in the way.  :)



He pushed harder! He wouldn’t give up. He had made up his mind. He had been working towards this for weeks…making strides, building up his muscles to get to this point. There was no going back! He just kept trying. He pushed as hard as he could, making all kinds of grunting noises, until finally he found the strength to push past this great obstacle called his own arm. :) He did it!


He proudly looked around in triumph...



As I watched Noah working so hard towards his goal, I wondered if I am that determined when it comes to my walk of faith. As I face obstacle in my everyday life, do I push past them to reach my goals and become the woman God created me to be?

As women (and a human beings in general) it is so easy to be held back by the pain of the past, the struggles of today, fear of failure and our own insecurities. We often let our feelings and emotions rule rather than allowing the strength of the Savior to guide us.

We will never push past these obstacles unless we start depending on HIS strength, rather than our own. We get so far, then get held back by our own “arm.” We push and push to achieve, but we’ll never make it to our goal (and His) without pushing with His strength in us! It’s not a sign of weakness to depend on Him. It takes flexing our faith muscles to keep pushing forward!

Jesus said, “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23

What if little Noah would have given up? He would have never known what he is capable of. Noah kept building up those muscles, pushing until he found the strength inside, until he did it! At first, it was a little awkward. Even once he rolled over, his neck was weak, his head a little wobbly. After a couple of days and several more rollovers, his neck is strengthening. He could still be just lying there on his back, waiting for something to happen, but now…


He’s enjoying the view! A new found freedom!

The Enemy would love to keep us bound up by our own weaknesses! He wants us to give up, lying there completely helpless and ineffective, never reaching our full potential. He doesn’t want us to push past them, finding God’s strength within.

If we are Christians we already have the power of the Holy Spirit living within us (II Tim 1:14). That means that we have the strength in us to push past the lies of the Enemy, the circumstances of everyday life and our own feelings of inadequacy. We must learn to draw from the strength within, surrendering all to Him, knowing that we are dependant on HIS strength alone!

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

Noah will continue to grow, learn and mature from here. With a little practice, before we know it, he will be sitting up, crawling, walking and even running! Things that seem impossible for him now, are within his reach if he just keeps pushing forward.

This journey of faith is ongoing for us as well, my friend. It will continue until we are, “…mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him.” We are a work in progress. We will never “arrive” or get it perfect in this lifetime. Still we must move forward, strengthening our spiritual muscles, maturing in Christ.

We can't give up! We must keep turning to Him, asking for His strength and relying on it!!! The more we depend on His strength the more natural it will become. The possibilities are endless. Things that seem impossible are possible for us too…when we rely on His strength!  Do you believe it?!

For nothing is impossible with God.  Luke 1:37

Friday, July 9, 2010

Feelings

Ever feel weary? I know where you can find rest…

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden (burdened), and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Ever feel hopeless and desperate? There’s a place to go for that too…

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Ever feel doubtful and scared? God’s Word says…

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:19

Feeling insecure and uncertain? There is hope...

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
Jeremiah 17:7

Do you feel ashamed? No need, you can be radiant with joy...

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

Are you feeling lonely? Scared? You are not alone, He is with you...

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. John 14:18

Are you feeling worried? There’s someone who cares, a friend…

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.  I Peter 5:7

Feeling anxious or uncertain? There’s an answer for that…

Let all that you are wait quietly before God, for your hope is in him. Psalm 62:5

Do you feel that you can’t change? Unable to overcome?  It’s NOT true (even though the Enemy would love to keep you there)...

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. I Corinthians 10:13

Feeling defeated? Don’t know if you can go on? He’s an overcomer and with Him you can be too...

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Do you feel lost or uncertain where to go next? He will show you the way...

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8

Feeling fearful? Afraid? He’s holding your hand...

For I hold you by your right hand - I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.” Isaiah 41:13

Feeling restless and in need of peace? You can only find it one place…

I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world can not give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

These are promises from God’s Word, dear friend! And unlike the world, God always keeps His promises! And unlike our own feelings, God never lies!! If we read it in His Word we CAN count on it, it’s true! All we have to do is except His promises! If we go to Him in faith believing, we WILL receive!! (Matthew 21:27) If we will simply ask, His peace is ours!! He doesn’t say He might give it to us, He says He WILL!

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you WILL experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand (passes all understanding or comprehension!). His peace WILL guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Struggling in one or more of these areas? I encourage you to take the corresponding promise from scripture above (or look up some for your own in the concordance of your Bible or at www.biblegateway.com, write it on a 3x5 card, carry it with you and meditate on it this week. Fill your mind and heart with the truth of God’s Word…and be set free from these negative, defeating feelings!

Remember feelings lie, God (and His Word) does not!