As you look ahead, don’t miss today!

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Ever feel like you are wandering through a desert in life? Maybe you are waiting for orders to go to the next duty station. Maybe you are in between jobs and wondering what is coming next. Where will you go? When will you go?

Let me encourage you this morning. God knows. He has a plan for you and if you trust him, he will reveal that plan to you in his perfect timing. Just trust him and obey him a step at a time as he reveals it to you. You likely won’t see the whole plan at once. You probably won’t even see the full “5 year plan”, but he’ll give you just enough light for the step you are on if you are willing to take it a step at a time and trust him.  By the way, Stormie OMartian wrote a book called “Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On”, and I highly recommend it!

I’m a planner myself and I do like to know what the schedule is. Each week, I look at the week ahead and make plans. I plan meals, school, field trips, laundry days, family time – trying to balance it all. I often write things on my calendar a month or even months in advance but honestly, a week at a time is about all I can really schedule. More like a day at a time. Life happens. Things come up. Someone gets sick. People need help. So we have to be flexible.

Jesus wants me to be flexible in my schedule so that I can do things for him. If I’m so tied to my schedule that I don’t have time to help a neighbor then I’m too busy. If I’m rushing so much that I don’t have my quiet time with the Lord each morning reading his word, praying to him, and listening to him – then I’m too busy.

There is a comfort in knowing that God is really in control of my schedule, and if I will allow him to lead then I know I will get where I need to be, when I need to be there.

This morning I was reading my Bible in the book of Numbers, chapter 9, – during the time that the Israelites were wandering in the desert. As they were traveling along, they didn’t stay at hotels, or pop in to a friend’s house to sleep on the sofa. Instead, they had to pack up their entire camp and take it with them to the next location. Their “camp” would have been approximately 12 acres in size with all the people & animals that were with them. That’s a lot of tents to take down and set up! Not to mention the entire tabernacle that had to be taken apart and carried to the new location and then set up again. It wasn’t a small pop up tent either. The tabernacle itself was about 45 feet x 15 feet, with the outer court area measuring about 150 feet by 75 feet. It required 3 different tribes of people to carry all the parts of the tabernacle to its new location.

How did they know where to go, and when to travel? God showed them! He revealed himself as a pillar of fire over the tabernacle during the night, and a cloud over the tabernacle during the day. When the cloud moved on, the Israelites knew it was time to move too. Sometimes, at his command, they would stay somewhere for only a few days. Other times, they would stay for a month or a year. Whatever the time, they obeyed God’s command and encamped at the place he chose for them.

God didn’t just randomly send them out to a strange place. God always went ahead of them to lead the way and he always remained with them. Just as today, he never asks us to go somewhere that he hasn’t already been.

We stayed at one duty station for almost 5 years. Another one we were at for only 9 months. So far we’ve been at our current one for 8 months. We assume we’ll be here for 3 years or so, but the reality is – only God knows. Not even the Army is in charge of where we will go – God is. When it is time, he will direct our path and lead us to the place that he wants us to go next.

In the meantime, we are to live for him HERE. So often, we are so busy looking ahead to what is coming next that we miss the blessings of where we are NOW. Whether we are here for a few days, or a few years, I believe God has a plan and a purpose in our location and in everyone he puts in our path. Sometimes we meet someone that affects our lives in just a few moments.  Sometimes we never see them again, and other times they remain in our lives for years.

As a military spouse, it’s easy to get to a new duty station and avoid getting involved in the local community because we know that we will move again one day. It’s hard to make friends knowing that you will have to leave them again. But if we avoid getting involved and meeting people, we miss out on SO MUCH. We miss out on blessings that the Lord has for us, and we miss out on the opportunity to bless others.

Living in our RV, we meet new people constantly. Some come and stay a long time at the campground, and others are only here for a night or a weekend.  Either way, we love meeting these new people – hearing their stories, learning about their lives.  God’s timing is perfect, and he often places people together in the same place at the same time for a purpose. We need to be open to seeing what he has planned for us each day right where we are. How can we love the people that are around us right now? What can we do for Christ today, right where we are?

What if there wasn’t a “next” to wonder about? What if right here, right now was the last place I’d be before Christ comes back? We don’t know what the future will hold, so let’s make the best of each day that we are given right where we are. If and when it is time to move on to another place, he will let us know – and we will follow him.

Do you need PEACE in your life?

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Do you need more peace in your life?  I always feel peaceful when I am surrounded by nature.  I love being by the water watching it move with the wind or being surrounded by trees and listening to all the birds chirping – away from all the noises of daily life.  Unfortunately, the reality is that we can’t escape every day life all the time and we do have to face some difficult circumstances and challenging situations.  How then, do we hang on to that PEACE all the time?

The truth is – there is only one way to true, lasting peace – JESUS.  It’s not automatic, but everyone has the same opportunity to experience it.  It’s not just a matter of believing in God – most people do.  It’s not even just believing that Jesus was a man who really existed.  The way to that deep down, in your gut, everlasting, constant peace is by choosing to believe that Jesus is God’s son, he lived a perfect, sinless life and then chose to die on the cross to take the punishment for all our sins – every one.  For you.  For me.  Why?  Because he loves you that much and wants to spend eternity with you.  He could have called on 10,000 angels to save him from the cross, but he chose to sacrifice himself for each of us.  And that’s not even the best part – the best part is that he rose from the dead 3 days later and He LIVES today!

2 main things separate Christianity (followers of CHRIST) from other “religions”.  One is that we worship a LIVING Lord!  Every other religion worships someone who is dead or a statue that was never alive in the first place.  The second thing is that most religions say you have to work for your salvation.  They say you have to earn it.  Make sure your good deeds outnumber your bad ones.  Some even say you have to hate or hurt people.  That’s NOT right!!  There is nothing you can do to earn salvation – an eternal perfect life in Heaven – because it’s a free gift being offered to you. All you have to do is choose to believe, on faith, and accept it.

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

You believe that wind exists right?  Yet, you don’t see it – you simply see the effects of it on other things.  Well, without any doubt in my mind, I see evidence of Jesus and God every single day.

Accepting these truths, will bring you PEACE.  Not a perfect or painless life, but a peaceful one.  My life hasn’t been perfect or painless – in fact, there have been many, many heartaches, physical sufferings, trials and hard times.  But through it all – I’ve found peace, because I trust in the One who is in control.  The one who created the universe, knows the number of hairs on your head, controls the sea, gave the birds their songs, made the bumblebee able to fly, makes a tiny acorn grow into a magnificent oak tree – He is in control and he loves you!

“Therefore, since we have been justified through FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 5:1)

We are justified (saved from eternal damnation in Hell) by our FAITH – not our works.  That is what bring us an everlasting peace.    You don’t have to have all the facts to have faith.  You don’t have to have all your questions answered to have faith.  Thank goodness, because we never will!  I don’t have to understand everything about how something works to believe it’s true.  Take the step of faith, and open your heart to letting Jesus into your life.  It’s so worth it!  YOU are worth it! 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

You are more valuable than the birds

As I sit here this morning having my quiet time, I keep looking out our large front window.  My view is filled with white as we have snow still covering most of the area after the blizzard this past weekend, but in front of the white background I keep seeing little brown birds fluttering around as they search for food.  We have a few patches of grass starting to show through and the birds keep congregating there as they hop around looking for a meal.  As I watch these little birds land on the tree in front of our window and pick at the little berries, I am in awe at how the Lord takes care of us.  If he will provide food and shelter for these little birds, then we can trust him to provide what we need as well. 

 

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Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:26-27, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable that they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

 

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We must put our trust in the One who can provide for our needs.  So often we collect or hold on to “stuff” in an effort to feel secure.  We buy or hold on to way more than we need “just in case” we need it.   Instead, our security should be found in Christ alone.   He loves you dearly, and will provide for your every need, just as he provides for each little bird.   Even in the middle of a storm, he is holding on to you and if you seek him, you will see his great love for you.

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I met a man named George

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Today I met a man named George. I was out running a couple of errands and saw him when I stopped at a red light. He was holding a sign that said, “Homeless. Please pray for me.” I pulled out some money to give him as I do when I feel the Holy Spirit’s nudging like that, but when I handed it to him there was something different in his eyes. He smiled and thanked me as most usually do, but then he said something else that got my attention. He said he knew God would provide. He told me his name and asked me to pray for him and when I told him mine he said he would pray for me. I promised him I would pray for him. I did, and will continue to.

As I drove away, my eyes were filled with tears and I just felt like I needed to do more for George. My heart was humbled as I thought about the joy that was showing through his eyes even in the middle of his circumstances. Here is a man living on the street with nothing but a backpack and he’s going to pray for ME? This isn’t the first time I’ve been awestruck by someone who, by worldly standards, has nothing yet they are obviously filled with the Spirit and therefore have everything. Without a doubt, I know that it is not our worldly possessions that bring great rewards in Heaven.

My Hubby and I have talked about evangelism lately and this meeting today had me thinking – why is it so hard for those of us living a comfortable, Christian lifestyle to talk to others about Jesus? We get so wrapped up in what people will think or what it might cost us that we don’t often enough talk about all that God has done in our lives. Why can someone who seems to have nothing, see so much more clearly all that God has done for them – and be so willing to share that with anyone who will listen? George had my attention for probably less than a minute at the red light, but he didn’t let that moment pass without sharing his trust in God.

God’s word tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. Even if you don’t sew, I’m sure you know how tiny the eye of a needle is compared to how enormous a camel is. I don’t want to be that rich man (woman) that cares more about clinging to what I have than about helping those in need.

As I turned the corner at the next light, I knew what I had to do. I stopped by a bookstore and bought George a Bible. Emily picked out a “31 Days of Prayer” book for him too. We grabbed a bottle of water and headed back to George. This time we pulled in and parked so we could walk over and chat with him. Emily gave him the bag of chips I had bought her at our last errand, along with the water. I asked him if he had a copy of the Bible with him and he said he did not. So I gave him the Bible with the “To/From” page in the front filled in. We chatted for a few minutes and he said he had been out on the streets for a few weeks. He said he had made some mistakes in his life and was dealing with some of the consequences. I didn’t ask what he had done because it didn’t matter. We’ve all made mistakes. Then he said, “I know that God will provide what I need. I just have to have patience. I hope…no, I KNOW, that he hasn’t forgotten about me.”

It was all I could do to keep my tears in my eyes until after I left him. I told him that God had most definitely not forgotten about him and that He will provide for him. We talked about how even in our hardest circumstances, God is there with us. He said he was just trusting that God would send someone along to give him some work. He had been to the shelter here, but said it’s always full.

I wish I could have just taken him home with me. In the end, we left him with a hug and a promise to pray for him. I know he has enough money for food, and I do know that God will provide for him, but I still wish I could do more.

As we pulled away, he was looking through his new Bible. I prayed that God would allow him to understand everything he reads. I don’t know how much experience he has with it, and I know some of it can be confusing, but I know that God can allow those words to penetrate his soul and that he will understand what he needs to. I was hoping he wouldn’t just start with Leviticus and get frustrated or confused. After I got home I decided the next time an opportunity like this comes up, I will give out The Jesus Storybook Bible instead. It’s sold as a children’s Bible but it is the best one I have ever read and is written in such a way that is perfect for adults as well. It tells some of the most commonly known stories from the Old and New Testament, and then explains how every single story points to JESUS.

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. Just when you think you are blessing someone else in need, he uses that situation to bless us in return. I hope to see George again, and I hope that I never forget him as I strive to live the life I’ve been given and as I look for ways to let Jesus’ light shine through me to others. Jesus tells us over and over (and over and over) again in His Word to help the poor and the needy. This needs to be more than an occasional handout. It needs to be our lifestyle as followers of Christ.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that what we do for others we do for him. That should motivate us to do more. I pray that I see clearly the opportunities that God puts in front of me and that I am obedient to act.  Let us all look for those opportunities to spread the love of Christ.  To HIM be the glory!

Don’t give God yesterday’s goat

The title will make sense in a moment, just hang with me!

This morning our Mother-Daughter devotional was from the book of Malachi and talked about tithing.  I know, most people don’t look forward to “The Tithe Talk” at church because they often feel like the church is just asking for their money. So many people are struggling to make ends meet or are living paycheck to paycheck so one more place asking for their money tends to put people off.

Let me encourage you to hear me out from a different perspective.

I mentioned yesterday how the Lord took my husband and me through a season of learning and some very difficult financial times early in our marriage. Oddly enough, it was during this season….during our hardest financial times…that my husband and I first began to tithe with any sort of real commitment. It was during this time that we learned what it truly means to depend completely on the Lord as our Provider.   Another name for God is Jehovah-Jireh, which means “The Lord will provide”.

God tells us in His word to tithe, which means to give 10% of what you earn back to His kingdom. The word “tithe” literally means 10%, but of course that is the minimum, not the maximum that God wants us to give. He tells us to do this FIRST, not last. BEFORE you pay bills or buy anything for yourself.

He wants our BEST. Not our leftovers. Years ago in a Sunday School class we were discussing this and talking about how bakeries often sell “yesterday’s bread” at a discount. Sometimes it’s still ok, but often it’s old & stale.  Nothing compared to fresh, out of the oven bread.  God asked them to give 10% of their firstfruits – the best of the best. He didn’t want them to give “yesterday’s goat” – their sick, injured, or leftover animals.  We even had t-shirts made up to remind us of this.  They were great conversation starters too!  The “29:11” in the picture refers to Jer 29:11, and was the name of our class at the time. 

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I’m sure many of you are asking, “How can I do that when I don’t even have enough money to pay my bills?”, and I understand. I was there.  Or maybe you are thinking you can’t possibly tithe the whole 10% because you have bills to pay and mouths to feed.   I hear you, I really do.  I say you CAN do this.  You can’t do it by relying on your own strength or ability.  The ONLY way you do this is to TRUST HIM completely. He will provide for you.

In fact, this is the only place in the Bible where God tells us to test him!

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  Malachi 3:10

So, we tested him in this, and you know what we found? God wasn’t kidding!! He threw open the floodgates of heaven and blessed us abundantly! Every time we gave our tithe – and many times I cried as I gave because I was afraid and relying on my own ability to provide – He showed us that He had it covered! So, so many times when I wrote out our budget on paper there wasn’t enough to pay everything. But EVERY SINGLE TIME we were obedient and gave our tithe to the Lord, he blessed us!

It’s not always easy. One of the lines in the song that I mentioned yesterday says, “though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name”. There were many days that there was a lot of pain in my offering. I wanted to be a cheerful giver, but I would cry wondering if I was giving the money to the church, or to God instead of the electric company or instead of providing food for my baby.

Not ONCE in many, many months did we ever end up missing the money we gave as tithe. A surprise check would come in the mail, bills would be less than expected, someone would give us some food…..so many examples of the Lord using other people to provide for our needs.

Notice I said he provided for our needs, not all of our wants. We did without some things, embraced Ramen noodles and found free sources of entertainment.  But we never went hungry, without clothes, or without shelter. We also did not use any debt or government assistance during this time. Credit cards aren’t your savior – Jesus is! It was all God!! He alone provided 100% of our needs.

If you are in a season of financial difficulty, or even if you aren’t – I encourage you to test God in this! Start tithing faithfully, and see what happens! Do it first, at the beginning of the month, before you start paying the bills. Then watch and see what the Lord does for you during that month!  Give Him a chance!

Read Matthew 6 today – the whole chapter. It’s no coincidence that the chapter starts off by talking about taking care of the poor & needy, prayer & fasting, and then finishes with God’s promise to always take care of us. When we are faithful to give to others, God provides for us. When we trust God to provide for our needs, we allow Him to work through others that are able to be obedient in their giving. Each time someone gave us money they were doing so out of obedience to the Lord. He wants us to take care of each other but we have to give him the opportunity to work like that.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God[e] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6: 25-34)

The greatest parenting book ever

The sheep aren’t in charge – the shepherd is.

This morning in our Mom-Daughter Devo we talked about Saul.  Saul did not obey God, so God took the kingdom if Israel away from him.  In fact, the words the Lord gave to Samuel for Saul in verse 28 say “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else – one who is better than you.

Ouch.

If something that is precious to you gets taken away, that is painful enough, but the Lord didn’t stop there.  He gave it to “one who is better than you”.

My daughter and I talked about her stuffed animal collection and how that would feel if I took them all away.  We also talked about how it would feel if I took them all away and gave them to someone else.  How much more would it sting if I said I was giving them to someone better than her?

We also talked about how this parenting idea of taking things away as a consequence for misbehavior is not a new idea.  God’s been doing it for thousands of years and He is the ultimate example of a parent for us to follow!  See, I’m not the only parent who does this!

But doesn’t God love each of us the same?  How can one person be better than someone else?  Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are to love everyone equally?

Yes, God does love us all the same.  However, He was taking the kingdom away from Saul to give it to someone who would take better care of it than he did. Someone who would listen and obey God. God wasn’t rejecting Saul – he could still ask for forgiveness and restore his relationship with God.  It was, however, too late to get his kingdom back.  God is a God of second (and third, and fourth….) chances, but Saul’s heart was hardened and it was time for God to take big action.

Emily said it’s just like if someone hired someone to do a job for them and they didn’t do it well.  They would get fired and the person would hire someone else.  YES! I told her she was exactly right and that happens all the time!  That’s why we work to teach her to have a good work ethic now.

This story makes me think of my own parenting and how sometimes we have to give big consequences to teach a big lesson.  It’s better for me to take away a couple of my daughter’s toys to teach her that she must take care of her things, rather than wait and let her learn that lesson when she doesn’t take care of her car, or her house.  Better to learn the lesson early when the cost is less.  Of course, we are human, so some lessons we have to learn over and over again as we grow.

I also think of the lessons God has taught my husband and me.  Very early in our marriage, we went through a very difficult financial season.  For a while, we both had great jobs and had great salaries.  We also had the wrong attitude about it all.  We acted like we deserved it all, we made some poor choices in how we spent it, and we failed to stop and remember where it came from in the first place and Who it truly belonged to.  We failed to thank the ONE who supplied our money and instead we just valued the money.

Then, we hit some major medical issues and bills came that we couldn’t pay.

Thankfully, the Lord used this to take us through a season of learning.  I can say “thankfully” because even though some of it was incredibly painful, it also opened our eyes to a new way of living – a much better way of living – that wasn’t dependent on money, but rather on HIM.  We lost a lot.  A lot.  A house, a car, and a lifestyle.  But we gained even more.  For months when we were out of work with absolutely no income, the Lord supplied for our every need through amazing ways and incredible people.  We did not go into debt, and we were never homeless.

There are SO VERY MANY stories within that season that I could tell about God’s greatness, but I’ll save those for another time.

 

This story reminds me of one of our favorite songs, “Blessed be Your Name” by Matt Redman. Let me share the lyrics with you. This song has spoken to my heart through many seasons of my life.

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

CHORUS:

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

(CHORUS)

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

 

No matter what our circumstances may be, it is our choice to bless the Lord and to praise His name.  Will you choose to praise Him no matter what you are going through today?  Will you look for the lesson He is trying to teach you?  Will you see the rose in the thorns?

 

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Choosing Thankfulness

This morning I ran to the grocery store for a few things just because the forecast says the roads might be icy on Wednesday so I wanted to be prepared in case I didn’t want to get out, but still wanted to cook meals.   As I was leaving the store, it was pouring down rain.

Cold, hard rain.

Honestly, my first thought was “Oh great, I’m going to get wet with cold rain and all my bags will get wet!”.

Thankfully, it only took seconds for the Holy Spirit to fill my mind with new thoughts, and I stepped outside talking to God as I went and CHOOSING to be thankful.   I say choosing, because it’s not always a feeling, but we have to make that choice to look for the good.  Much like LOVE – we have to choose to love, even when we don’t feel like it.

“Rejoice always,pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Give thanks in ALL circumstances, it says.  You might not feel like giving thanks FOR all of your circumstances, but no matter what we all have something we can be thankful for.  Most of us have many somethings we can be thankful for.

I didn’t even run to the car.  I chose to walk.  After all, it’s just water.  Sure I got wet and cold, but it was temporary.  Today, as I walked to the car in the rain, I thought about all I had to be thankful for:

 

* The rain.  The ground, plant & animals all need it.  I thought about how many people in parts of the world would be celebrating for rain like this.

* The food that I just purchased.  Fruits & veggies.  Meat.  Healthy, nutritious food that I was able to pick out myself.  I don’t have to worry where my next meal will come from….or my next several meals.  To be honest, I’m not even worried about whether or not I will eat next week.

* The fact that 2 days before payday, I had money to buy food.

* My truck.  I didn’t have to walk to the store, but instead, I could get in the truck and turn on the heat as I drove home.

* My husband’s sweatshirt I was wearing – keeps me warm and reminds me of his love.

* The friends I have at PWOC (Bible Study group for military women/wives) – where I am taking part of this food tomorrow, and the fact that we can not only gather publically to worship God and learn about Him, but we can also post it on Facebook and invite people to come.

 

So much to be thankful for!  I hope you all will join me this year in trying to CHOOSE thankfulness, even when it’s not our first feeling.  Looking at this list, I realize I am RICH beyond measure – maybe not by society’s standards, but I’m ok with that.

Did you know that 1 in 5 children in America are “food insecure”?  That means they don’t know where their next meal will come from.  In North Carolina, it’s 1 in 4 children.   I just read that a couple days ago and I can’t get it out of my head.  I’m not supposed to.  I’m supposed to do something to help.

Do something this week for “the least of these”.  Donate goods, time, or food to those in need.  I bet you’ll be glad you did.

Is your water clean?

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Yesterday our neighborhood water company started some work on the water lines.  We were warned ahead of time that this could cause some issues with water pressure or even discoloration in the water for the next 3 weeks.  I pretty much blew off the message I received about it without a second thought.  Until last night, that is.  When my daughter went to brush her teeth and the water wouldn’t turn on.  At all.  I thought to myself, "They said there would be issues with pressure, not that there would be NO pressure." and then we laughed about it and moved on.  Thankfully we had a couple cases of bottled water on hand from a party this past weekend, so we told her to grab a bottle of water and pretend we were camping.  Later last night, our water was back on.  The pressure wasn’t great and there was air in the lines, but it was on.  It didn’t even cause a disruption in our day.  We went without water for less than an hour. 

This morning as I got in the shower and noticed the water pressure was half what it normally is, I couldn’t help but think about how blessed we are to even have water.  Clean, fresh water at the turn of a knob anytime we want it day or night.  I don’t ever have to walk further than about 15 feet to get to a water source in my home.  I even fill up water bottles to take it with me wherever I go.  I stood there looking at the clean water flowing from the shower head and thought about how fortunate I am to be able to stand there using as much water as I need to get clean, and some just because it’s nice to stand in a hot shower.  I don’t have to worry about it getting in my mouth and getting a life threatening illness.  I don’t have to worry about the bacteria getting in the fresh cut on my hand. 

I don’t know why I’m fortunate enough to have been born here in America where clean water is more of an expectation than a luxury, but I do know that I should stop more often to truly be thankful for such things that we consider so basic.  I know that I am to do my part to help others, to give to others just as the Lord has done for me.  When we look at our blessings, we should be reminded to reach out and bless others.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." When we share our blessings with others, we are also sharing his love. 

In John 4, Jesus is talking to a woman at the well and he says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Paul, when talking to the Philippians, says "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Jesus is our living water.  He says that if we drink of that water, we will never thirst.  He is that clean, fresh water pouring out of the faucet – available to us anytime day or night.  All we have to do is call on Him and He will be there.  If we keep our eyes on Him and make Him the priority in our lives, we will learn to be content no matter what because He provides us with a JOY that can come from nothing else.

If you want to make a difference in the life of someone without easy access to clean water, consider making a donation to World Vision.  They are an amazing organization working to provide clean water and improved sanitation to impoverished areas of the world where so many are dying from waterborne illness.  Thank you!

Laughing our way to a better marriage

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Friday night, Hubby & I had a date night. Mark Gungor, author of “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” came to Fort Bragg to do a free show for the military.  He had spent the week traveling to a few different Army posts and we were his last stop.  If you have not heard Mark Gungor, let me introduce you to him.  He is hilarious!

Watch this 5 minute clip as he describes the differences between men’s brains and women’s brains.  He is right on!

Rob & I were first introduced to Mark’s series when we watched a DVD at a marriage retreat where we also received a copy of his book.  We really enjoy reading it to each other, and it opens the door for some great communication as we are constantly seeking to better understand each other and make our marriage stronger as a result.

One of the things I really like about Mark’s presentations is that he’s a down to earth guy that makes himself relatable to all the guys in the audience.  He is a Christian preacher, but his presentations are not preachy in any way.  I feel like that allows the audience to let their guard down and really listen as he describes the differences between men and women.  We aren’t created to be the same, yet so many marriages struggle because the wife wants a husband to be just like her best girl friend, or the husband expects his wife to be just like his guy buddies.

There are many, many verses in the Bible about understanding, but I want to share one in particular with you.

“Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.  Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”  ~ Proverbs 15:21-22

This says that if you have no sense, you will find happiness in your folly, but one who has understanding keeps a straight course.  The straight path leads us to God, so we first need understanding.  The better we understand our spouse, the better our marriage will be.  If I really try to understand my husband AND I am seeking to please God by loving my husband, then I will want to love him the way HE needs to be loved….which I can only do if I first UNDERSTAND him.

The second part of that verse refers to getting counsel.  That doesn’t necessarily mean going to a counselor – although if you need one, they can be an incredible resource.  It means getting advice from people who know what you are going through because they have knowledge and experience.  Seeking wise counsel (from someone with the same values, faith & beliefs as you), will allow you to gain a new perspective and give you tools that you can use to make it work.

Learning more about your marriage doesn’t mean your marriage is broken.  Seeking wise counsel about how to have a successful marriage doesn’t mean you have problems.  It means you are being proactive and trying to create a situation that will best allow you to succeed.  Don’t be too proud to seek advice and wisdom from people who have a successful marriage.  Seeking ways to make your marriage better means you are STRONG, not weak.

If you were going to build a house, or renovate your home, you would seek counsel from someone who had done it before, wouldn’t you? (I hope so!)  If you were going to start a cake decorating business, you would first take a class to learn how.   If I wanted to change the oil on my car, I would read a book, watch a video, or ask someone how to do it.  I’ve watched many a video on YouTube to learn sewing skills, or to follow a recipe.

Why not apply the same reasoning to our marriage?

From the first year of our marriage, Rob and I made a commitment to attend a marriage retreat, seminar, class, etc. at least once a year.  If we couldn’t attend one for some reason, we will go through a marriage book together.  Something each year to help us keep our equipping skills sharp, to help us learn more about each other (and ourselves) and foster our communication.

We have learned so much over the years and have adapted our communication styles as we learn new things or as we grow and change.  We are committed to doing this right – the first time, so we must stay on top of it.

Above all else, put God first in your marriage.  If you are each individually seeking to grow closer to the Lord, you will automatically grow closer to each other. 

triangle

 

Let God be that third strand of the rope that holds you two together. 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12

My journey to Surrender

I really don’t know why it took me so long to get to that place I talked about in my previous post.  That place called Surrender.  I’ve had an open invitation to go there for quite some time, but I’ve been ignoring it.

Let me go back to Summer 2011.  Rob had been deployed for a few months and I had been having my quiet time with the Lord, reading my Bible and praying.  I knew I couldn’t get through that deployment on my own.  I mention the quiet time because I have found over the years that the more I spend time reading my Bible and praying, the easier I hear from the Lord.  I would love it if I could just come across a burning bush and hear a booming voice of God telling me exactly what I am to do, but that’s not how He speaks to me.  At least not yet.  I’m still hopeful.  Instead, I “hear” from him as I’m reading the Bible – his very words.  Some days as I read, I just learn more about him and his character.  Other times, the words seem to jump off the page to me as I read as though it is written specifically for me at that moment.  I hear from him when the Holy Spirit speaks to my heart and I feel gentle nudges, or as doors open and close to certain circumstances.  Other times I feel he speaks to me through music.

One particular day, I was driving home from a friend’s house when the song “Blessings” by Laura Story came on the radio.  I had never heard it before, but by the time it was over I was in tears.

The whole song is amazing, but a couple things really stuck out to me.

“’Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise”

Right away, I felt like I was being reminded that I needed to cry these tears.  I needed to have sleepless nights where my soul was aching and longing so that I would turn to the One who could comfort me.  The One who wanted me to remember He was near.

When I heard these words:

“What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy”

It was as close to a burning bush moment as I’ll probably ever have here on earth.  I just knew.  I knew because I felt it in the pit of my stomach.

I had been longing for something, thirsting for something, aching for something – that this world will never satisfy.   My greatest disappointment has been not being able to have more children.  Not being able to get pregnant again made me feel like a failure – as a woman, as a wife, and as a mom.   I failed to have more kids.  I failed to give Rob more kids.  I failed to give my daughter siblings.

I failed.

I have failed at many things over the years and have spent too much time feeling like I wasn’t good enough.   I spent too much time feeling awful for not being able to fix things that were never mine to fix like my father’s alcoholism, my parents’ marriage, or certain events of my childhood.  I had to finally accept that I could not fix them or control them.   (Not to be confused with the wonderful, blessing of a man I call Dad that my mom is married to now!)

I could at least be in control of my own life, right?

NOPE.

I told you, I’m hard-headed.

When we were first dealing with our infertility I remember feeling so out of control.  It was easier to deal with not being able to fix other people’s problems because I could always blame the other person.  But this was about ME, and there was not a single thing I could do to fix the situation.  It was completely out of my hands and I had to surrender my body to the will of God.  Letting God be in control should have felt comforting and safe, but instead I felt scared and frustrated that I couldn’t do something about it.

I couldn’t do anything about it, but God could.  He gave us Emily.  He showed us clear as day that He – not us or the doctors – was in control!

After having my hysterectomy, I remember feeling like I lost all control again.  It felt like my heart had been taken out with the rest of my insides.  Now I couldn’t even hope for another miracle.  I mean, sure God *could* do a crazy miracle and make a woman without a womb get pregnant, but I wasn’t betting on that one.

I felt lost and empty.   So out of control.  Void of any hope.  Like a failure.

It’s a failure I am completely reminded of.  Every time I go out in public and see a family with lots of kids.  Every time a friend announces a pregnancy.  Every time Emily tells me she wishes she had a brother or sister.  Every time a stranger tells me that I really need to give my child a sibling.  Every time someone assumes I don’t like kids just because I only have one.  Every time someone tells me that I can take their child home because they can’t stand them.  Every time I hear someone say they are so thankful that it was just a ‘scare’ and they aren’t really pregnant.

So, I jumped on the adoption bandwagon again.  As I examine myself, I think I latched onto this idea so tightly because it was my only hope.  It was something I could hope for.  It was something that I might be able to control.  I told myself for years that once WE were ready for another child, we could always adopt.  As if it’s as easy and stopping by the mini-mart to pick up a child.  I tried to convince myself I was in control again, but I failed at that too.

As I listened to this song, I realized that I was longing so desperately for a child – but all this time, God just wanted me to long desperately for HIM.   I was putting more hope into trying to control my life than I was into surrendering to the one who gave me life.  God wanted me to put my hope in HIM, not in things of this world.  Not even in a child.

As soon as I heard the song, I knew.  I prayed and cried out to God and told him I knew I needed to surrender it all to Him.

I tried.

I failed.  Again.  I kept trying to take back the control.

To be honest, I think I’ve known since that summer almost 2 years ago that we would be parents of an only child.  I think God put that on my heart and has been calling me to surrender to him ever since.

And I’ve been fighting it every way I know how ever since.  I didn’t want to admit it.  Maybe I thought God would change his mind.  Maybe I thought if there was just something I could do differently…

Just surrender.

I must have heard that phrase in my mind a thousand times.  I convinced myself I didn’t hear it, or it must mean I was supposed to surrender something else.  Not THIS.

I thought, “I am a fixer…and I have to fix this.  I have to make it right.   The only way to rid myself of this failure is to have more children.  I have to make this work.”

No, you don’t have to do anything.  Just surrender.  Let it go. 

I need you to be content with where I have you.  I need you to put your hope in me.

I know why I put you and Rob here.  I have things I need you to do.

God was inviting me to come to him in my brokenness.   He knows I’ve failed and he loves me in spite of it.  He knows my limitations and he never once expected me to be perfect or to fix everyone’s problems.  Not even my own.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Cor 12:9

And you know what?  I love it here in this place called Surrender.  I’m sure I’ll slip up and leave the island from time to time, but my goal is to spend a lot more time here.  It’s really peaceful.  Like laying in a hammock, reading a book and listening to the ocean waves.  I honestly haven’t felt this much peace in years.  After all, Jesus is called the Prince of Peace and his arms are open wide just waiting to receive us if we will just choose to run to him.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6