Thursday, December 2, 2010

Isaiah 43:19 (The Message)
Forget about what's happened;
   don't keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new.
   It's bursting out! Don't you see it?
There it is! I'm making a road through the desert,
   rivers in the badlands.

An opportunity, one that appeared so right it felt like it had been placed in my path.  Yet God closed the door in a way that left me feeling like I forgot to move my hand and left my fingers throbbing in the threshold.  In a matter of hours, someone close to me received a similar opportunity with all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place.  While extremely proud for her great news, something inside hurt deeper.  Discouraged, I opened my devotional guide, and the verses above spoke so vividly to my heart.

The last couple of years have seemed the hardest for me physically, spiritually, emotionally.  I'm not saying they haven't been good years, in fact they have been great.  I'm just seeing myself have to work harder at things than ever before.  I'm being asked to step up to the plate...being a parent is no longer changing diapers and making sure the baby is fed.  The physically challenging hours of early life are replaced by the emotionally challenging times of preteens. Being on the income side of a non profit in this economy is nothing short of miracle making...believe me, we've learned to stretch budgets like Jesus did with those five loaves and three fishes.  Balancing time for God, family, work and myself seems to be a daily challenge.

I'm being called to grow in spirit to, to step out of my comfort zone and be bold.  Sharing my faith is something that hasn't been comfortable for me, and that challenge has presented itself more and more lately. 

No this opportunity would not have solved the world's problems, and I think the no answer I received was another reminder that our Father grows us and shapes us into what he wants us to be...through experiences every day.

The lessons God spoke to my heart through this experience:
Seek God even in the small things. You don't have to hold back and wait to make a big ask with God.  He's happy to help with every day things too.  Imagine how much easier our lives would be if we would give EVERYTHING to God.

Be comforted in the voice that tells you you are walking in his path.  Getting a firm "NO" hurt, but at the same time, I have peace because I know my Father wouldn't have said no unless he had another plan for me.  Whether its something amazing that reveals itself at a later time, or the privilege to continue on the path I am on, I am comforted knowing I am where I am supposed to be.

Be still enough to hear that voice.  In the midst of this opportunity were many alone driving days.  There were three o'clock wake up calls too.  I was seeking his voice, and I heard it clearly.  So many other times I hurry through life and barely slow down enough to say hello to him, much less listen to his will for my life.

Forget about the past.  Even though I feel inadequate in my life's roles, I can't dwell on the failures or the lack of perfection desired of a type A, I must look to the future.  No matter how bad the past may be, the future is bright.  He promises us that.

This post has taken me a couple of weeks to sort through, as have the emotions that have gone with it.  I leave you with a quote that also spoke to me:

"The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time."
Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Seasons

Its a beautiful morning.  The sun is shining brightly across the multi-colored landscape.  Leaves drop like rain as Fall will soon make way for winter.  Coffee is always a welcome start to the morning, but something about the crispness in the air makes it taste that much better.

Seasons.  God's reminder of how things change.  The beautiful fall leaves and the joy of bringing out the long sleeves will soon be replaced by winter, with its brisk, short days, and hopefully a little snow mixed in to delight the heart.  Winter melts into spring with the tiny budding leaves and reemergence of beautiful flowers.  Then summer, with long days made perfect for play time and enjoying the beauty of the world outside.

Our lives change.  Our babies grow up into toddlers then into teens.  Young adults look up one day to realize the are middle agers no longer living a carefree life, but one of responsibility for a family.  As quickly as those days come, so does the empty nest and watching the next generation start the cycle all over again.

Seasons.  God's reminder there will be trials, and out of trials become beauty.   As that cold, dark winter buds into spring it always seems brighter, more joyful.  Even the most beautiful seasons can produce trials...tornadoes, flooding.  Yet even the cold, bleak winter produces moments of joy...like the true beauty of the sun glistening on pure, white snow.

Ecclesiastes 3 talks about seasons.  How they come and go, and how God stays the same.  I couldn't help but put this beautiful creation on my fridge from my son Noah.  It says "Seasons Change.  God stays the same.  He is making every thing I go through into something incredibly beautiful." 

God spoke vividly to my heart with this picture.  A gentle reminder of he is always there.  He is constant, unchanging.  Several times in the past year, I have lifted my hands and said, "God, there has to be an easier way.  Please give me another path." Each time he has answered vividly, "Here is where I want you."  Those days that I just haven't known if I'm strong enough to make it through, he has reminded me that everything we go through becomes something beautiful. 

Craftsmen, artists.  They all work hard.  Starting with an empty canvas, a piece of clay...or for us writers a blank piece of paper, we have the ability to see beyond the rough edges and know there is a masterpiece to come.  So it is with our everyday lives.  Raising kids, the joys and the heartaches, are something incredibly beautiful.  The balance of happy moments and struggles we face daily, they are all part of God's journey.

Here's to the masterpiece we will create and the beautiful things we will experience along the way. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Voyage

We counted down the days beginning a month and a half ago.  Vacation.  I don't know who was more ready, us or the kids.  So where did we go?  Santa Claus, Indiana.  A tiny town in Southern Indiana named for the great Christmas legend.  The story of the economic development of this area as unbelievably special as Santa himself.  The featured attraction:  Holiday World, a family-friendly amusement park situated in a town of 2,200 people that draws crowds that large and larger on a daily basis.

As we drove in Tuesday, I looked winding, two-lane road.  Nothing in sight but corn fields and farm houses.  Then, in the distance, a huge wooden roller coaster appeared.  There it was, that pit in my stomach...you see, I'm not a thrill rider.  My last two ride adventures had left other fair guests a little surprised by my inability to deal with the round and round motions.  My greatest fear was leaving behind a "souvenir" in Santa Claus.  I agreed to the adventure thinking Troy could do the rides with the kids, and I would watch my family with pride from the nearby bench.

We entered the park on Wednesday, and I soon realized most rides were for pairs...three would be a crowd, and adult supervision was required in order for Noah to ride due to height requirements.  So I sucked it up and rode.  A couple of small rides in, we arrived at one of the three wooden roller coasters in the park.  Little did we realize it was the biggest, with a 154 foot drop and 24.2 seconds of g-force speed.  The Voyage...quite adequately named.

This was the kids first roller coaster experience.  I put on my brave face, while shaking silently inside.   Seat belts secured, the coaster eased out of the building and started climbing the hill...and climbing...and climbing.  Then we reached the top of the first plunge.  I stared down at the amazing length of track below.  Zooming down we went...me screaming all the way and holding on for dear life.  We twisted and turned, went up and down, sped around curves, and finally screeched to a stop where we began.  "That was awesome," exclaimed my young son.  I was still in too much shock to comment on our ride.

My "Voyage" is one of my best souvenirs from the trip.  And no, I'm not referring to the photo of me screaming my lungs out (God gave me nice, full lungs for a reason) .  In our lives we climb mountains, we zoom around curves with our heart racing, and we plunge to the bottom at warp speed sometimes.  We let life pass us by, consumed with what is coming around the next curve or at the top of that next climb.  We hold on for dear life. 

I don't want to be someone afraid to throw my hands up and just enjoy the ride.  I want to be able to stand at heaven's gate one day and say "That was awesome."  My goal, to live each day to the fullest, and put everything in God's hands.  He's my seatbelt holding me safely inside and my comfort in this fast journey.

Will there be more coasters for me?  You bet!  Bring them on!

http://www.holidayworld.com/rides/voyage

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Climbing the Mountain of Worry

Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)

 6-7Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. 

Philippians 4:6-7 (Amplified Bible)

6Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition ([a]definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
    7And God's peace [shall be yours, that [b]tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall [c]garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Its been a consistent thing the past two weeks.  By 5:30, my eyes are wide open, my body gasping for air.  The stress of the day's activities weighing heavy on me.  Again I tell myself mentally there isn't any way I will possibly be able to get everything accomplished.

This morning I had the same battle.  After taking a minute to catch my breath, I got up, made my coffee, and headed for my computer.  Today is National Day of Prayer, and this verse immediately came up when I opened my browser this morning. 

As I poured through the verse in several translations, here are the things that came to mind:

  • Put your worries into prayers...and give them to God.  He can handle so many things for us if we let him.  I once read of a lady who decided to put all her worries in a box on pieces of paper, give them to God, and then come back in a month to see what had happened.  When she opened the box, the many worries she had were all take care of but three, and two no longer mattered.  
  •  The Amplified Bible says to make definite requests...name your prayer requests specifically.  If its no rain you need, pray for it!   If its more time for a project, pray for it!  We often don't get what we ask for because we don't pray for it specifically. 
  • Our worries distract us from the work of God and make it easier for Satan to work in our lives.  Boy did this hit me hard!  Not only is my worrying bad for my physical health, but my spiritual health as well.  Guard our hearts by staying focused.
  • Before you know it, you will feel God's wholeness, bringing you the peace you desire.   
  • Even when we can't "fix" everything we worry about, and we end up with a situation in which we didn't want, God still walks us through.  He hasn't let me down yet.  So even in a worst case scenerio...he WILL take care of us.  So what's there to worry about?
The coffee cup is empty, and the sun is shining brightly.  The mountain is still in front of me.  But so is my Lord Jesus.  No matter what today brings, he has his hand out to help me along.  Off to conquer the mountain!  Have a great day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Prayer

I've been waiting on those great messages of inspiration to make a good blog entry, but I think God has been speaking to me in language I can understand during Relay season...short and sweet.  My heavenly father knows more than anyone the best way to get things through to me!

So here are a few short and sweet thoughts that have come from several places about prayer.

  • We have not because we ask not.  God doesn't answer prayers we don't pray.
  • Sometimes not hearing a yes means no, or not now.  We need to listen to that too!
  • We should go into a worship service prayed up and asking God to use us as his tool.  If we lead worship in any other way, we are simply entertaining and not serving God's purpose.
Yesterday on K-Love I heard someone talking about our children and prayer.  Parents, listen up!  Prayer is the way we have that deep, loving relationship with our Father.  We pour out our hearts passionately to him and wait on his all consuming love.  We should teach our children to pray with that same thing in mind...we deny them that deep, passionate relationship with God that HE wants us to have when we use the rhymes and verses we so often pray as a child.  Its our responsibility as parents to teach our children how to pray so they can have that same relationship with God that we as adults crave.  WOW!

So there's the short and sweet for today.  I'm off for day three of a five day, five county week.  Have a blessed day!

Monday, February 1, 2010

After the Rain

Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.   Psalm 16:1 NLT 

Well I should have taken Mercy Me's song a little more seriously.  Not only did we have "rain" last week, we had ice and snow.  Being alone all week with the kids, juggling a whirlwind of a schedule, a stubborn husband who refused a prescription to lower his blood pressure-then sending him off to a sales show three hours away, and ice storm...it was a long week.  Then Sunday morning, we awoke to sun, and glistening trees that looked like they had been adorned in silver.  Top that with a great time of worship at Mount Hermon.  Suddenly the stress of the week melted away as I gave my all in song and praise.  As I listened to "How Great is Our God", I realized he is quite amazing.  My husband traveled home safely Saturday, and I had an evening to vegetate...a rare happening.  Within five minutes our our first power outage during the ice storm, I had a neighbor who called to check on me and the kids and to invite us to stay.  All five outages were taken care of by an amazing crew within an hour each time.  And...Troy's blood pressure is down significantly.  Not enough to say normal, but much better.  And, he had a blessed show of sales, doing in one day more than he expected for the week.

Rain...it makes the trees and flowers grow and refreshes the earth.  I believe it might possibly do the same for us too!  Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Monday, Monday

Mondays for me bring all sorts of anxiety.  I guess its being out of routine.  Somehow staring at the day and week's to do list always sends pits through my stomach.  (Stops momentarily to read my earlier post on worrying).

Anyway, I awoke yesterday morning to Mercy Me's song "Bring the Rain."  A song whose words are so powerful, telling "if that's what it takes for us to praise you, Jesus Bring the Rain."  Praising God in our trials?  Seems like an amazing feat. Most of the time I want to hang my head in the corner and pretend its not happening.  After I've failed at "fixing things myself," I shamefully cry to God for help.  Yes, he's seen me through many trials, and delivered me from even my own not so Mrs. Fixit self.  See...God does perform miracles.

So yesterday as I drove, I talked with God about this song.  Angie Smith has a beautiful blog called "Bring the Rain" that tells of their joy during the birth and death of their daughter Audrey.  I thought about my friend Joe knowing that when God brings him through his present struggles, he will have an amazing testimony to share.

"But God, I would rather praise you during my little struggles...I don't want you to "bring the rain" just so I can praise you," my heart pleaded.

I laid my head down last night still thinking of the lesson God was trying to share.  So...its 5:15 on Tuesday morning, and while I am folding laundry, packing Troy's suitcase to send him off for the week, running the list of what errands I had to do before leaving town today myself, checking the schedule for practices, meetings, etc...God lays it out for me.

Whether our "rain" is a gentle mist or a pouring flood, its about the peace of knowing that whatever trials I may face, he is there.  Its about the joy of knowing suffering is only temporary, and we have a heavenly home waiting for us.  Its also about attitude.  If we can face our trials head on when God brings the rain, what an example we set for others.  Its about remembering nothing is too big, or too little for God.

So this morning, I wish you joy and peace and a sunny day.  But just in case you have a little rain, don't forget your praise.


Bring the Rain by Mercy Me
I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that
I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You

Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings
You glory And I know there'll
be days When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to
praise You Jesus, bring the rain

I am yours regardless of the clouds that may
loom above because you are much greater than
my pain you who made a way for me suffering
your destiny so tell me whats a little rain

[1st Chorus]

Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy
is the lord God almighty
is the lord God almighty
I'm forever singing

[2nd Chorus 2x]

everybody singing
Holy holy holy
you are holy
you are holy

[2nd Chorus 2x]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Beaten Down

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (The Message)

10-11This is God's Word on the subject: "As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before, I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 12"When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. 13-14"When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." God's Decree. "I'll turn things around for you. I'll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you"—God's Decree—"bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.

Friday on what I though was a normal work related visit, I stopped by a place of business to announce the start of our new Relay season and to say hello.  Standing in the parking lot was the person with whom I intended to meet, pale, thin, disheveled.  I knew this person had received news several months ago of a cancer reoccurence, but I happened along at his "last straw" moment...the past few months had dealt cancer...no insurance and therefore huge medical bills and finally being "cut off" from treatment, family issues, and the loss of his job this week.  A few months ago energetic and positive, a motivator...my friend was beaten down, ready to throw up his hands and end it all.

After losing a close friend to suicide and being clueless about what was going on, the impact of such a decision hit me squarely in the chest as I stood there.  He and I talked for a few minutes, me doing the best I could to be an encourager.  Thankfully, his dad came a few minutes later.  Another coworker thought enough of me to call later and to let me know his father took him for treatment.

Please pray for my friend.  I know God will not put more on us than we can bear.  Joe is certainly carrying a load right now. Please pray for me now.  I had not planned on my schedule that day to make that visit, and I believe I was placed there for a reason.  As I continue to minister to this dear person, I pray God uses me as he intended.

As you can tell from my blog name, Jeremiah 29:11-13 has been a passage I have prayed many times.  This morning, I chose to see what it says in The Message...and I love the very definite way God says that when we get serious about finding him AND WANT IT MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, he will make sure we are not disappointed.  You can count on it. 

I believe God has a plan for each of our lives, Joe's too...and that he will show him that plan.  May we all seek God with our whole heart, wanting him more than anything, and can see the plan he has for us.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Worry

The Cure for Anxiety
Holman Christian Standard Bible
Matthew 6
25
"This is why I tell you: Don't worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: they don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don't labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won't He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don't worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I realized yesterday it had been almost three months since I posted. Wow. Time certainly flies. We've had two birthdays and Christmas in our household since October 1. Taylor turned 11 October 16. I've seen the shift from toys to boys and clothes, yet another reminder she is growing up on me. Noah turned 7 this year. He is becoming a young man with interests of his own. He's gotten into hunting and fishing and remains a child who will spend most of his time outdoors if the weather permits. Even with it 10-15 degrees last week he had to be outside at least some. Makes me glad to have 2.5 acres and a neighborhood with other boys!

2009 was a blessed year for our family. Troy and I continue to be blessed with careers we enjoy, health and more than we deserve. Our family grew with the addition of a brother-in-law (Andrew), two nieces and two nephews. Its been a treat to have "cousins" for our children. And yes, I love hearing "Aunt Jenn." We lost an important family member. My last living grandparent, Paw Paw Taylor went to be with Jesus back in February. I miss him greatly, but I'm glad he is healthy and once again with Maw Maw.

I had a fantastic opportunity to be home for a little over two weeks at Christmas. Aside from the celebrations, I set out to tackle a project I have been meaning to do for quite some time. I cataloged more than 15 years of photos dating back to my high school days. As I poured through the photos, it reminded me of just how full of a life I have been given. Even when we thought we had nothing, I was blessed with loving family and a roof over my head. Times when the kids were small and we were rubbing pennies together to get by...times when I felt completely overwhelmed wondering how to take care of things, were documented with precious smiles and silly moments from my babies.

It was also a wake up call. Worry and the pressure to get things done often takes space in our lives when we should enjoy the blessings we are given. God reminds us in Matthew 6 that we shouldn't worry about tomorrow, we shouldn't worry about what we are going to wear, or what we will have to eat tomorrow...He will provide. That's a tough lesson for a worry wart like me! So whether 2010 brings a storehouse of success or many trials, most likely something in between, our God is in control, and HE will provide.