Category Archives: Destiny In Bloom Articles

This is a group of blogs I write for Destiny In Bloom each month~Enjoy!

There is Grace at the Crosswalk

 Grace is the very opposite of merit… Grace is not only undeserved favor, but it is favor shown to the one who has deserved the very opposite.  ~Harry Ironside

grace at crosswalk

I was dropping my kids off today at school. I parked and went to walk my kids across the crosswalk as I do every morning. A woman hesitantly stopped for me to allow my children to walk across. She glared at me as if she was doing me a favor (but she really didn’t want to). I snickered under my breath and thought, “Unbelievable.” My husband once told me that I didn’t hide my facial expressions very well. I guess it showed because I received a second evil glare as she drove past. “Isn’t this a Christian School?” I thought to myself, “Aren’t parents suppose to slow down if children are crossing?” I was more annoyed that she was acting as if I was inconveniencing her- it was obvious she was late and in a hurry.

As I drove home and reflected I heard a still small voice. Not audible- just in my heart. “You need to have more grace for others.” And at first my pride tried to shout out, “Uh, hello Lord, did you see the way your ‘supposed’ daughter just acted towards me?!” (I could almost hear my children’s usual banter, “But she started it!”).

And then the Lord told me that His grace is for me even when I don’t deserve it; even when I’m being ugly. He asked me if I would give others that exact same grace, even when they don’t deserve it. After all, isn’t that what grace is?

And He didn’t stop there dealing with my heart. I wondered why I always felt like He was dealing with me (again hearing my own children’s arguments in my head, “But it’s her fault!”). Then He showed me that He is always at work on everyone’s heart. At that exact same moment He was trying to work on my heart He was working on her heart too. It’s just that not everyone is going to listen when He’s working on their heart, and that it’s not up to me to try and deal with her heart. I’m responsible for how I respond. Her actions are between her and God. My response to her actions is between God and I. Instead of being worried about how other people treat me, I need to be more concerned about my own heart and how I will respond to them, not if, but when they act ugly towards me.

Grace- undeserved kindness.

Is the kindness I show to others based on how they treat me or am I able to return a smile for an insult? And not the kind of sarcastic smile I can give when I’m annoyed either. A genuine, “I’ll love you anyways” smile. Grace. You don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it. But every single time we allow our flesh to be in control and act ugly towards someone, instead of a heavy hand swooping in from heaven, we hear- my grace is sufficient for you. I love this quote from a book called Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges- Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment. It is the love of God shown to the unlovely. It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him.

It’s because of His grace, that I see my sin for what it is- sin and I am quick to repent for my mistakes. It’s because of that grace that I received (and receive daily) from Him, that I should be able to give grace freely to others. Remember, we never know what someone else has had to walk through. I don’t know if that lady had a fight with her husband that morning or is going through a divorce. I believe our grace towards someone who does not deserve it is like pouring out water to someone who has been stranded in the desert- life giving and refreshing. We’ve received it so freely- why do we insist on holding on to it?

If grace were a person, (and He is- He is the person of the Holy Spirit), what would He say? This is what grace would say:

 

In a line, grace says, “Go ahead of me.”

Even though you aren’t treating me kindly, grace says, “It’s okay. I have no idea what you’re going through.”

Grace says, “Here, have the last one.”

When driving, grace says, “go ahead, get in front of me.”

To your child when they make a mess, grace says, “It’s okay, I’ve made messes too.”

Grace says, “I’ve been there; it’s okay.”

When your spouse has let you down or disappointed you, grace says, “I forgive you.” (And then you really let it go).

To a friend who is running late, grace says, “It’s okay; I’ve been late too.”

To the person who is a little rough around the edges, grace says, “It’s okay; I’m going to love you anyways.”

To the person that offended you or really hurt your feelings, grace says, “I forgive you and choose to let it go.”

 

 Lord, I’m so thankful that you don’t give me what I deserve, but you pour out undeserved favor. I am thankful for the gift of grace that’s been given in my own life. Today I ask that you would help me pour out that same grace to others. Before I’m about to respond or react, would you gently whisper, “grace, give grace”. Lord, that people would see You in me- not in my own strength, but because of your Holy Spirit that lives in me. Grace- I receive your grace today for all of my many shortcomings and I choose to freely give that grace away. In your precious name, amen.

Romans 3:24- all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Encouraging Yourself in the Lord

Young woman reading bible

There are very few things more harmful than to expect from another human being what only God can supply. Ken Davis

Have you ever had one of those mornings? You know what I’m talking about. Your kids know what I am talking about. Let me start off by telling you about my morning. Actually, let’s back up a few days. First day of school- I was over prepared (so proud). We left way early. Everyone was at peace. Day two was about the same as day one. I had pre-packed their lunches the night before. I laid out their uniforms. I packed their P.E. clothes in their backpacks. I put their names on their water bottles for P.E. I knew what I was making for breakfast and had all the ingredients needed to make pancakes. Day three was pretty good. Then came today. Day Four. I should have done a laundry load with uniforms, but I didn’t. I should have gone to the grocery store the night before, but I didn’t. I should have purchased my sons uniform shorts like I was going to- but I didn’t. I should have at least pre-packed lunches (then I would have realized our food shortage) but, you guessed it, I didn’t! And as you can only imagine, I had one of those mornings!

I awoke (thank goodness had my quiet time or who knows how bad it could have been!). I quickly realized we were out of milk for cereal and eggs for, well, eggs. My pancake recipe called for eggs, so that didn’t work. I was out of fresh fruit, so I resorted to yogurt. Complete with pre-teen attitude and all, “ugh, yogurt mom?” Yes, hunny, yogurt- eat it! (Of course, said in love. Ha!) My 8-year-old son Joel was wearing shorts that obviously were not his size and came near his ankles, but luckily, a belt kept them intact. I then decided to rummage through the dirty clothes to find his one pair that sort of fit (suck it in baby!). Then comes the assembling of the lunches. I always put in 5 items- drink, fruit, small sweet item, chip, and main item like sandwich. Today, I wasn’t out of everything (thank you Lord!) but I did have to make Nutella sandwiches & peanut butter and jelly, which I’ve already done this week and we’re only on day 4 (and also comes with no shortage of pre-teen attitude, “A sandwich again?” God bless her). So finally, 8:00 comes and we are ready to run (literally) out that door. We heard the train and that’s never a good sign because that means we have to wait an additional 7-10 minutes if the train is coming. And wouldn’t you know it, but as we opened the front door (no joke) it started raining cats and dogs (not literally). What’s worse, my van is old and both (yes, both) of the door handles are broken off of the kid’s sliding doors. Stay with me here. We were nothing short of a comedy scene for the average observer! So thankful God isn’t posting this one on Youtube! The kids ran out. I also ran out to click unlock on key ring, and then run back in to look for their rain jackets. The kids ran back in, and I ran out and yelled, “it’s unlocked, go!” But usually they have to climb over the driver seat to unlock the sliding door to the back- let’s just say, we were all a little wet and frazzled by this point! And just like Humpty Dumpty, it felt as if my morning had come tumbling down. And then as I drove, I said, “wow, what a morning!” And my kids didn’t even need to say a word- their silence was loud enough. Then I prayed for their day as I always do on the way to school, but included myself in that prayer today.

So, back to my original question, have you ever had one of those mornings or one of those days? I think we can all answer, unequivocally, shout it from the rooftops, yes! Unfortunately for Humpty Dumpty, there was no one that could put him back together again. But fortunately for us, there is!  I know for some of us we have days where we would like to hide under a rock, and just see if we could start all over again tomorrow. But I want to challenge you today, just as I have had to challenge myself. What if instead of crawling under a rock and just ‘hoping’ tomorrow gets better, what if we crawled under The Rock and put our hope in Him? Psalms 18:2- The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalms 31:2- Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

Truth is, we all go through stuff, whether self inflicted or others inflicted. We are humans, imperfect, living in a fallen world. I am not here to show people that I live a perfect life, because I don’t. I am here to show people I serve a perfect God who is more than able to meet my every need. I know sometimes when we’re going through something our first impulse is to look to people to meet those needs. We scour the blogs, Facebook, and Twitter searching for something to hold on to. And don’t get me wrong- God uses people. I believe God uses their writings and scriptures posted as a source of encouragement, but I also believe God would want us to look to Him for ourselves (not always depending on other people). That we would know for ourselves, not just because of someone else, but for ourselves, that we would taste and see that the Lord is good and that He truly is who he says He is. Hebrews 5:12- You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s Word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.

Please know my heart here. I am preaching to the choir. I know me (okay, that sounds weird!). I know that I can be prone to pick up the next big book, or the next best Christian this or Christian that. I wonder if God ever looks down and says, “Okay Celeste, just let Me know whenever you’re done looking to everyone else for advice, I’m here.” I believe God has blessed us with an abundance of amazing tools to ‘help’ us in our walk like teachings, blogs, books, and articles. And I will always be a fan- always.

But the question I have for you today is this- what is your source? Or, better yet, ‘who’ is your source? At what point will we seek Him first for guidance, wisdom, direction, and ultimately peace?  And usually, if we seek Him first, we see different things throughout our day that confirms what He’s already spoken to us, whether it is a scripture someone’s posted or an article that really hit home. Matthew 6:33- But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Right there in God’s Word, BUT SEEK HIM FIRST.

I am going to tell you something that might shock you, so listen closely. You are just as able to hear from God as a pastor or someone in an area of ministry. True story. Before you decide to throw out all of your Joyce Meyer CD’s and stop going to church, listen- as the body of Christ we need these people, and we need each other. Ephesians 4:11- Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers (and we could add writers, bloggers, etc.)Why, do we need them you ask? Ephesians 4:16- He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. So, in a nutshell, in order to be healthy & growing, we will always need each other. But don’t ever discount your ability to seek the Lord for His encouragement, guidance, and direction for yourself.

Ok, let’s get practical here because I’m a practical girl who needs practical steps! These are just some ways to hear from Him on your own.

1)   Time- Set side time each morning to spend with Him.

2)   Location- Have a spot where you always keep your quiet time essentials so your not wasting time on gathering items.

3)   Reading plan- Whether it’s a one-year Bible, or a book in the Bible you want to read all the way through (there are many reading plans online too). The point here is to have some direction in your quiet time.

4)   Study-There are many study helps out there that help us if we are unclear what a particular passage means. Online, Bible Gateway is one of my favorites. A commentary is used right alongside your Bible. If you’re not sure who wrote the book, or the date, or unsure of the meaning- you can usually look it up in a commentary. This just helps to have deeper meaning of the scripture.

5)   Record your journey– Have a pen & journal handy. If a certain scripture pops out, write it down. Thank Him for His Word for you that day! Sometimes it helps to have a journal to reflect back on the journey.

6)   Pray- Talk to Him about your needs and the needs of others. Just be real, He already knows us even better than we know ourselves!

7)   Worship- I like to put on praise and worship and just sing to Him. It’s amazing what happens when we just let go and give Him the glory, thank Him, and love on Him for a bit. Invite His presence.

8)   Listen- Sometimes I will just sit there after talking and be still. We need to shut the world out and get quiet before the Lord. There have been times when He comes in and just fills me up with such a peace. It takes practice to quiet our hearts before the Lord, but He will bless that time.

9)   Mediate- If you like me had your quiet time and still had a rough morning, it is ok.  Find scriptures to chew on throughout the day. Write down scriptures that remind you of Gods goodness, Gods faithfulness, God’s promises. His Word is powerful and as we meditate on His Word, it changes us. His Word changes our perspective and the way we view things.

These are just some suggestions of ways that you can hang out with Him and hear from Him. There is no set formula, no wrong or right way. He knows our hearts. I am desperate for Him and for more of His presence. I want to be a person that runs to Him when I’m feeling anxious or nervous or insecure (or if I’ve had a bad day). I want Him to be my portion; my more than enough. I want to cultivate that seeking of Him in my own life. If you’re like me, hungry and thirsty for more of Him, just know that He has promised us that if we seek Him, we will find Him. If we get in the habit of seeking Him first, everything else will just be confirmation. Are you done drinking the milk yet? Rumor has it there is plenty of meat to be had!

Lord, I thank you for the many people you have gifted in the area of speaking and writing and encouraging. What amazing gifts they have! But I do pray that you would help us to seek you first before always running everywhere else and that you would teach us how to find our encouragement in you. I pray that you would open our ears to be able to hear from you. Help us to set aside time to cultivate our hearts towards you and the things of you. Let us grow in wisdom and understanding of your Word. We will thank you Lord for your peace, for your presence, for the power your Holy Spirit in us. We love You Lord, we are hungry and thirsty- fill us up with more of you and less of this world. Thank you that you are our Rock and our refuge- and it is you who puts us back together again. Amen

 

Isaiah 45:19- I publicly proclaim bold promises. I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner. I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right.

Stop Trying

Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.

Corrie Ten Boom

I’m constantly trying. Trying to consistently work out. Trying to keep in touch with others. Trying not to raise my voice in anger at my children. Trying to juggle all of life’s demands. Trying to be all that I can be (no, this isn’t an army ad). Do you ever feel like you are always trying? I want to be able to do everything. I want to be good enough, wise enough, rested enough, balanced enough, loving enough, spiritual enough, involved enough … ENOUGH!

Unfortunately, my desire to be enough leaves me exhausted. Spent. Lord, will I ever be able to do this? Will I ever be fully enough to carry out what I feel like I’m called to carry out? I try. And I will be the first to admit—at times I fall completely flat on my face.

For many of us, we can say, “Oh yes, God is my strength!” But do our lives line up with that statement? If He really is, then why are we trying so hard?

Not in your own strength, for it is God who is all the while effectually at work in you (energizing & creating in you the power & desire), both to will & to work for His good pleasure, satisfaction & delight. (Philippians 2:13)

We can either live our lives ‘self-sufficient’ or ‘God-sufficient’. Self-sufficient is when we are trusting in our own abilities and strengths to get us through. We have been so used to saying things like, “I can do this on my own” or “I don’t need help, I’ve got this” or “I can handle this” that we leave little to no room for God to work in that situation. As women, we like to have control, or at least ‘feel’ like we’re in control. And one of two things can then happen when we’re self-sufficient. When we accomplish something in our own strength, guess who gets all the glory? We do (look at me).

The second thing that can happen when we’re self-sufficient is that we fail miserably, and then wonder why. We say things like, “I thought it was God’s will.” And it very well might have been Him you heard from originally, but you took the reins and tried to do it in your own strength.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live ‘God-sufficient’. That means that God is sufficient; I can rely on His strength for my life. I’m done trying to do it on my own, trying to do it in my own strength. His strength is sufficient for me. He is enough.

I was recently tested in this area of trusting the Lord to come through in His strength. Throughout this year, I’ve prayed at different times for the Lord to use me in the area of prophecy (why not?). Then this month the staff was asked to come out and prophesy over the graduating seniors. Well, I’ve never stepped out in this area before. I told our friend, who is the youth pastor, that I would have my kids so if it would be easier for my husband to just go, that would be fine.

She asked a friend to sit with our kids so that I could go. I remember at first not feeling all that prepared and I specifically remember praying that day, “Lord, this is to encourage & exhort your people. If you have a word for them, then by all means, use me, but I take all the pressure off of myself, because it’s not about me.” And guess what? He was able to use a willing vessel that was completely dependent on Him!

The times where I’ve felt the Lord move the most were the times when I’ve just told the Lord, “I can’t do this on my own. If you don’t show up then it’s not going to happen.” And then I have to trust Him enough to know that if I’m walking out what He’s calling me to do, He will show up. He has always been faithful to come in with His strength, wisdom, and anointing.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

In the area of striving in your relationship with God, remember this: We can’t love Him in our own strength, we can’t will ourselves enough to abide in Him, we can’t serve Him in our own efforts; our priorities and our perspective will mess it up. The key is to come to Him in your weakness, in your failure, in your brokenness and ask Him to cause you to love Him, ask Him to cause you to want Him, and ask Him to cause you to abide in Him.

I read this from Joyce Meyer:Most of us desire the good life God has planned for us, but we recognize areas in our lives that need to be changed. Many times you set out to make those changes, yet in spite of your best efforts, you seem powerless to make it happen. Trying to bring about change through your own strength and plans will always result in frustration. God is waiting for you to stop trying to change and start trusting Him to change you. If you need to make changes in your thoughts, attitudes, and behavior, understand that you can’t do it by yourself. Spend time with God and ask for His help … After all, if He can’t do it, it can’t be done. But He can … and He will.”

Jesus, I need to give myself up. I am not strong enough to love You and walk with You on my own. I can’t do it, and I need You. I need You deeply and desperately. I believe You are worth it, that You are better than anything else I could have in this life or the next. I want You. And when I don’t, I want to want You. Be all in me. Take all of me. Have Your way in me.

(Prayer by Francis Chan)

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)

The Power of Encouragement

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“We all have different gifts, based on the grace given us … If it is encouraging, devote yourself to encouraging others.”

Romans 12:6-8

A few weeks back my husband was having a really hard day. I couldn’t remember the last time he was quite this discouraged. I prayed with him over the phone and then he went back to work. When he came home that night, he told me about a man who accidentally called him (which we obviously know it was no accident). He said the man hadn’t meant to call him but instead of hanging up, this man left him a message thanking him for his ministry to his family while we lived in Colorado. The Lord used that man to speak powerfully to my husband that day, to let him know, “Hey, you’re making a difference, and what you do really matters.” It was water to a weary soul. No accident- the Lord knew exactly what my husband needed.

Also recently, I received an email from someone I had met two years ago at a writer’s conference. She read one of my articles in which I had shared about my past. She said she remembered the joy I had at that writer’s conference, and said that after reading about my past, it made the joy that I had even more powerful. She didn’t have to encourage me with her words, but she did. My heart overflowed with gratitude for this sweet woman who blessed and encouraged me with her words.

There is something powerful in the act of encouraging someone. The Hebrew word for encourage is chazaq, which means, “to make strong or firm.” Encouragement has power. This is the scripture I try to live my life by: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act”  Proverbs 3:27. I love this. It’s not about when it’s convenient, or when it will serve my motives, but when it is in my power to act.

When I wake up each day, I ask God to show me at least one person I can encourage. Whether it is a smile to the check-out lady, an encouraging word to a frazzled mom, a compliment to the woman at church. There are many ways to serve up a scooping of encouragement!  You can send a quick email telling someone they did a good job at something, you can text them letting them know you are thinking of them & praying for them, you can bake cookies for someone who is feeling down, you can Facebook an encouraging word or scripture to someone. You will never know the impact this can have in someone’s life!

Encouragement through the spoken word is powerful. Speak life to someone today. Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” This power of encouragement isn’t just for our girlfriends or strangers- it’s also for our families too! Whenever you speak encouragement to your child, just watch their face light up. Our husbands also really need our encouragement. We need to realize the power we hold as their wives to literally build them up or tear them down. Remember, do not withhold good when it is in your power to act.

I read the following story and was deeply moved. Dale Galloway tells this story of a young boy named Teddy Stollard. He was not the kind of kid who got invited to parties. He slouched in his chair and looked bored most of the time; he only spoke when called upon, and then in monosyllables. He never dressed right, and he had smelly clothes; he was a rather unattractive boy.

Whenever his teacher would mark Teddy’s papers, she got a certain perverse pleasure out of marking all the wrong answers. She would put the “F” on top with a little flair. She might have known better, because his history was on record:

First grade: Teddy is a good boy and shows promise, but has a poor home situation.

Second grade: Teddy is quiet and withdrawn. His mother is terminally ill.

Third grade: Teddy is falling behind. His mother died this year; his father is uninvolved.

Fourth grade: Teddy is hopelessly backward. His father has moved away; Teddy’s living with an aunt. He is deeply troubled.

Christmas came, and all the children brought presents to school. They were carefully wrapped, except for Teddy’s, which was packaged in brown paper and held together with tape and marked, “For Miss Thompson. From Teddy.”

The teacher would open the gifts one by one for the class to admire. When she opened Teddy’s, it was a rhinestone bracelet with most of the stones missing, and a bottle of perfume that was mostly gone. The other children started to laugh, but Miss Thompson caught herself. Snapping on the bracelet, she said: “Isn’t it lovely, class? And doesn’t the perfume smell good?”

At the end of the class, Teddy approached her shyly. “I’m glad you liked my gifts, Miss Thompson,” he whispered. “All day long you smelled like my mother. And her bracelet looked nice on you, too.”

After he left, Miss Thompson put her head down on the desk and cried. She asked God to forgive her. She prayed that God would help her to see what He sees when she looks at a motherless boy.

When the children came back to school the next day, Miss Thompson was a new teacher. She tutored the children who needed extra help, Teddy most of all. By the end of the year he had caught up with most of his classmates and was ahead of some. After that, she didn’t hear from him for quite a while. Then one day she received a note:

Dear Miss Thompson,

I wanted you to be the first to know I am graduating from high school, and I am second in my class.

Love, Teddy Stollard

Four years later came another note:

Dear Miss Thompson,

I wanted you to be the first to know I am graduating first in my class. The university has not been easy, but I liked it.

Love, Teddy Stollard

Four years later, another note:

Dear Miss Thompson,

I wanted to you be the first to know that as of today I am Theodore J. Stollard, M.D. How about that? I want you to come sit where my mother would have sat, because you’re the nearest thing to family that I’ve had.

Love, Teddy Stollard

This is a beautiful story about a teacher who realized she had the power to encourage someone. As you can see, his life was forever changed because someone took the time; someone went out of their way to actually care. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11(Please note that this is a fictional story, yet strongly portrays the influence any one of us can have on someone’s life).

There have been many times I have received encouragement at just the right time. I can only pray that I might do the same for others. You really don’t have to look too far to find someone that is feeling discouraged or carrying a heavy heart. As God’s people, I pray that we would seek out opportunities to let our light shine. Would you agree with me that this world could use a little more Son shine?

Lord, thank you that every time I read your Word, I receive encouragement from You. Now, would You help me to carry that into the lives of others? Help me to shine my light that others would see these good works and glorify You in Heaven. Use me Lord to bring encouragement to your people. Give me a servant’s heart. Open my eyes to those who are discouraged around me and give me the words to speak into their lives. Give me creative ways to encourage someone today! I will be quick to give You all the glory! Amen.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  Galatians 6:10

Linking up at (in)courage today!

My Story For Your Glory

Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. Isaiah 61:7

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this month. The Lord has reminded me of some places I’ve been. It’s not as if I had forgotten any of these places, but He was vividly bringing these places to my memory. These places use to be places of shame. They use to be places of regret. Today, as I view the slide show of my past, it is no longer a place of shame- it is a place that has been healed. Instead of a dark room, there is a window with the Son shining in.

I was watching the show on A&E called Intervention. Many people I know watch that show with horror and disgust. How could anyone reach so low? But I watch with sadness and am always rooting for the treatment to work so these people can start living. I am often saddened when I find out at the end of the show that they relapsed or have gone missing. My heart breaks for them and for their families. I want to shout (sometimes I do), “Don’t do it!” or “Take the help they’re offering you!”

You see, a lot of times our passion comes from something we have been set free from. Thus passion turns into compassion. I am no stranger to addictions. I grew up in a household with an alcoholic and drug addicted mom. I also watched many of her boyfriends come in and out of our lives and abuse alcohol and drugs. I started experimenting with alcohol by the 7th grade. Then when that wasn’t enough, I moved on to drugs. By the time I was in 9th grade I was addicted to the rush of drugs and alcohol. I was blacking out all the time. My life was one game of Russian roulette after another. I didn’t care. My friends and I had no trouble getting what we needed. Anything to numb the pain of reality would do.

By 10th grade the pain of my everyday life was more than I could bear. I moved away from my family from Sacramento, Ca. to Palm Springs, Ca. (I will save that story for another article). I was living a life no 10th grader should be living. I had seen and done so much already. By the time I was 18, I was heavily involved in drugs. Completely out of control. This is where my memory gets a little shady. I would have to be picked up early from my job by my roommate because I was unable to work. I was paranoid and not in a good frame of mind. I would come to work hung over all the time, spiraling down a life of addictions.

By 19, (I had a fake ID), I was a regular at all the local nightclubs. They all knew me. I remember how important I felt when we walked up and they had a huge line to get in, and they opened the rope to let my friends and I in. Now I look back in complete shock that I drove home every single time completely drunk. It is ONLY by the grace of God that someone (myself included) was not injured because of my reckless lifestyle.

As I write about these addictions that completely gripped every area of my life, I almost feel like I’m writing about someone else. Because truly, I am not the same person that was overcome by these addictions. When I gave my heart and life to Christ Jesus at the ripe age of 20, that person from my past was dead. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, ”Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!” (AMP). I also love this verse in Isaiah 40:2: “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” This is my story for His glory. Satan tried to do his best to keep me because the reality is, if God can heal me from a life of addictions, there was no way I was going to stay quiet about the goodness of God!

And I no longer need a bouncer at a club to tell me I’m a VIP, because truly in God’s eyes, we are His Very Important People! He fills every area of my heart that used to be so empty.

Recently the Lord took me to Isaiah 61:7. I had read it before, but lately He’s really been speaking to me through this particular passage in regards to my past.

Let’s dig!

Isaiah 61:7- (All information studied from John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible)

“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion.” When the Jews were converted, they no longer carried that reproach; shame. This verse represents double honor in matters civil and religious. Also double portion means to be in great esteem with Christ and all His people.

“And instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.” It was a promise for the Jewish people as it is for us today. Our inheritance or portion means Christ as our portion and ALL of the spiritual blessings we will see ourselves blessed with in Him. We will now have the spirit of grace and supplication poured upon us, and all the gifts and graces of the Spirit bestowed on us, all which will be cause of joy and rejoicing to us.

“And so you will inherit a double portion in your land.” There it is again, double portion. This passage means double honor and restoration. We shall enjoy great plenty of all kind of blessings, temporal and spiritual. Zech. 9:12: ”Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” “And everlasting joy will be yours.” This was also a promise to the Jews that they would no longer be carried captive. That’s for you and me. We will no longer be carried captive!

Look at these verses with me:

Isaiah 35:10: “And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Isaiah 51:11: “The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Psalms 126:5: ”Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”

There are some of you reading this that the Lord has showed you a particular area that you still feel shame. Would you allow Him to enter into those places and by the power of His Holy Spirit, ask Him to cleanse you, forgive you and restore those areas? He already knows why we did the things we did in the past; now it’s time to take back what the enemy has stolen. If there’s one thing I know, it is that He will use our story for His glory! God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them (Romans 8:28).

Lord, we come before you now and say, if not for your grace & mercy, who knows where we would be right now? Heal our past so that we can bring glory and honor to Your name. It is our heart’s desire that people would look and see, and say, “Wow, look what the Lord has done.” Take it all, Lord, and use it for kingdom purposes. Today we receive Isaiah 61:7 as our promise from You: A double portion of all that You have to offer in our lives, and no more shame. Let us rejoice in our rich inheritance! Overtake us, Lord, with everlasting joy! Amen!

By the way, if you’re wondering if I have any addictions now, I do. I am completely addicted to Jesus!

The Land of Comfort and Her Neighbor Fear

Trees Rising Above Swamp

If we’re going to go somewhere with God, sometimes we need to let go of where we’ve been. ~Beth Moore

There is a land that is all too familiar. It is a place that is neither fun nor daring, but it is a safe place. It is a familiar place. In this land, you always know what will take place. There are not too many unexpected turns or twists. This is a comfortable place: our favorite chair, our usual meals, our daily rituals. We have grown accustomed to this land. It neither calls us to move forward nor step out into the unknown. In many ways, this land has grown on us with its familiar surroundings. This is the land of Comfort.

Travel with me to her neighbor, Fear. We don’t recognize her right away. She’s sneaky, this neighbor. In her land we remain. We do the expected and walk in ways not to offend. We dare not make any sudden moves. We understand that people have come to have expectations of us, so we mustn’t cause the waters to ripple and otherwise risk their disapproval. But the problem with these sibling neighbors are that the Lord never intended for you, for us, to camp here quite so long. Oh, but it’s safe we think. But is it?

I am comfortable, because deep down I am afraid. Welcome, comfort and fear. Being comfortable has a way of causing us to stay in one place and become complacent. We have heard the Lord at different points in our life call us to step out of the boat; “but Lord, that water looks cold.” And before we know it, we’ve traveled to the neighborhood of fear. “I would, Lord, but what if I fail?”

I am going to admit something to you about my land of fear. The Lord told me it was way past time to talk to my kids (especially my 11 year old) about the basics of where we came from and sex. I’m not going to lie. I started in the place of comfort (maybe this will all just go away) and drove right on over to the place of straight-up fear.

No longer was this just something I knew I needed to do, but this thing had taken root in me and actually held me in bondage. I grew up learning everything about this subject the wrong way and from the wrong people. I was terrified I was going to say it wrong; or worse, what if the words didn’t come out right? I didn’t want to confuse my children even more. I camped in the land of fear for far too long. I was blessed to share this with my mommy group one night, and was given a great resource to use (God’s Design for Sex by Stan and Brenna Jones). And after giving this stronghold up to the Lord, I did it! I cannot tell you how good it felt to move out of these neighborhoods and into what the Lord had asked of me! And we are not done, but now that I’ve stepped out I know I can do it!

What about you? Is there something the Lord is calling you to do, whether big or small and somehow the enemy has you convinced that comfort and fear will always be your place of residence? This was a small example of me moving out of those neighborhoods. I also have felt the Lord stirring some things up in me that will require much preparation and sacrifice. I know there are areas where I need to sharpen the gifts that He has given me and I will need to take some practical steps to get there. It will not be comfortable and fear has already been knocking on my door, but I refuse to let her stop me!

I love the story of Moses. If there is someone whom I feel I can most definitely relate to, it’s my man Moses. In Exodus 3, God calls out to Moses from a burning bush. This is where He calls Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery under Pharaoh’s evil hand. In verse 10 He says, “Now I am sending you.” And here’s what Moses says (verse 11): “But who am I to appear before Pharaoh? … How can you expect me to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” In verse 12 God told him, “I will be with you”. Throughout the chapter, Moses protests. Then in Exodus 4:1 Moses protests again. “Look, they won’t believe me! They won’t do what I tell them.” (Looks like someone is driving around the land of fear).

Exodus 4:10: But Moses pleaded with the Lord (I’ve done this), “Oh Lord, I’m just not a good speaker: I never have been, and I’m not now, even after You have spoken to me. I’m clumsy with words.” I love the Lord’s response in verse 11: “Who makes mouths?” the Lord asks Him. “Who makes people so they can speak or not speak, hear or not hear, see or not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go and do as I have told you, I will help you speak well, and I will tell you what to say.” In verse 13, Moses pleads again with the Lord and straight up asks Him to just send someone else!

It says this in the Matthew Henry Commentary: “Moses still continues reluctant in the service for which God had intended for him; now we can no longer impute it to his humility and modesty, but we must admit that there was too much of cowardice (fear), slothfulness (comfortable), and unbelief in it.” As most of us know, God did use Moses in a great and mighty way. He used him to deliver the people and did many miracles through him.

My personal story is this: I feel at some point the Lord wants me to speak more and share my story. A lot of people know me as an extrovert, so they might think that this would be very easy for me. I will tell you right now, I turn into mush at the thought of speaking. Mush. Jello. Yep. And then in the area of writing–I know He wants to use me in this area, but here’s a little confession: I failed typing class. I was too busy writing notes to my friends. I never followed through and even as I type this, I am slower than molasses and have to look at my keyboard. (The Lord sure has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?!)

What is the Lord is asking you to do? Does he want you to drive as fast as you can out of those ‘comfortable’ neighborhoods? Is He calling you to do it in spite of the land of fear that you seem to drive through all the time? The one thing I know of the Lord is that where He has appointed, He has anointed! Beth Moore has this to say on this subject: “We’re going to have to press through our land of fear to get to the land of promise. If we think that we can’t do it because we’re scared of it, that’s probably why it is exactly it! Go do it scared. There’s no way to get experience other than to just do it.”

She goes on to say that every time she would go up to speak that her knees would knock for the first 15 minuets. She said to herself, “I’m just going to have to let ‘em knock!” We need to humble ourselves & admit we are scared, but if this is what the Lord has put on our heart, then we just need to do it!

Lord, You know our hearts. You know the areas where we have become comfortable. You know the areas where fear still has a hold on us. Would You help us to confess those areas to You? Today I ask that those dreams that are placed deep inside our hearts would no longer be buried by comfort and fear. We give these dreams up to You and ask that You would show us what steps we need to take. Lord, that our lives would bring You glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.

                                           Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

Happy New Year- Don’t get Stuck in a Rut!

Woman Sitting with a Bored Expression

Focus on the journey, not the destination.

Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.
Greg Anderson

Rut #1- Location, location!

I have often thought of myself as somewhat adventurous. Not too crazy, like jumping out of an airplane or anything (maybe someday). But I do like to stir things up a bit. While living in Colorado, I often found it much easier to change things up when things started to get a little…mundane. We could easily go to one of the many nearby trails. We also loved exploring the many parks in our area. There was no shortage of dog parks either. We would often take our pug Latte out and enjoy the scenery together as a family.

I don’t like ruts. I don’t like things the same for too long. I get bored and I know my kids do too. We all need a change of scenery from time to time. Its fun to go exploring our town and the different events it has to offer. Last year I moved to Brownsville, TX. I then started working Monday through Friday, and found myself getting into a little bit of rut. Ever been there? Work, pick up kids, after school snack, homework, dinner, sports, home, bath, bed… and you guessed it, repeat tomorrow.

And while it has been a little bit harder to find places to explore, it really is worth it. And while the weather may be a little warmer, being outside as a family has so many wonderful benefits! I also look up things going on in the community. Check your local community calendars- you are sure to find some fun events to change things up. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find fun things to do. The best thing about our particular location is that we are 45 minuets from South Padre Island (oh, now you want to visit me!). Go ahead…explore the land!

Rut #2- Physical

Before you skip over this section, just stay with me for a moment. Hopefully, you’ll be glad you did! Before I started working five days a week, it was also much easier to work out on a regular basis when I had a job of like six hours a week. Then, when I moved here and started working, I noticed a little more wiggle in my step. A little more bounce in my pounce. I thought surely our scale was broken because the numbers just kept going up! (The Mexican food here is not only fabulous, but can be very damaging to the waistline). Finally, I realized I had to stop beating myself up. I somehow picked up the mindset that I was either going to be working out five times a week or not at all. And, with my new crazy schedule, not at all won.

I had to take a good look at my ‘physical’ life and how I was feeling. I remember how good it felt to run or ride my bike. I remember how comfortable I was in my skin. I decided that I wasn’t going to beat myself up any longer, but that I was going to do something if I had some spare time and the hubby was home, or even if I just went to the gym once that week, it was better than not at all. And you know what, I do feel better (regardless of what my scale might say!). But the most important lesson I have learned through all of this is to change it up. If you have access to a pool, swim once in a while, then maybe jog next time you go out. Go for a bike ride with your kids. I love a change of scenery! This will help you not to get bored and instead of seeing working out as a negative, it will actually turn into a positive. You will be amazed at how much better you feel! Go ahead and mix it up!

3 John 1:2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

 

Rut #3- Spiritual

I have heard people before talk about their quiet time as somewhat stale. Boring. And I think the main reason is that sometimes we get in a rut. Wake up, read daily Bible, pray for people on our little prayer list. Move on. I read a great article recently by Rebecca Pfortmiller in Gateways Studio G Magazine. If you get a chance, I highly recommend you read this article too! She says, “I try not to be too rigid on how I approach this time”.  There’s no ‘set’ way to have your quiet time. I like to get up early, make my coffee, and then tip toe (so I can keep it ‘quiet’ time) to my closet. I usually start by asking the Lord to speak to me before I read His Word. Then I read from the Bible, sometimes from my daily Bible, but other times I might be reading through one of the books from the Bible. I always have my journal handy in case I read something and feel like that’s specifically for me that day. And really it just depends after that. There are times when I turn up praise and worship, and just worship Him. There are also times when I will download different podcasts from some of my favorite speakers and listen to them as I’m cleaning or getting ready. There are some mornings when I just feel the need to thank Him, and I begin to list all that I am thankful for. And of course, I’m a big journal girl. Write it down! Whatever He’s doing, whatever you’re going through- it’s your journey with Him. Hab. 2:22Then the Lord replied:“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets”. That’s what I love about God- learning about Him never gets boring, and growing in Him isn’t dull. Loving Him and allowing Him to love on me is absolutely priceless. Go ahead, shake things up a bit!  

I know there are many other areas where it is good to get out of your rut. These are just three that that I was impressed to write about.  The biggest lesson with all of this is to not get legalistic with your schedules- whether it be your time with the Lord, exercise, or going places. Have fun! Life is a gift from God meant to be lived! And if you start to feel like the rut is sneaking back up on you… jump in the car and go anywhere!  Grab a book and head to your local coffee shop, grab a board game with the kids, throw the kids in the car (not literally) and go for a hike somewhere, go sit somewhere with an amazing view and read, journal, hang out with God! Mix it up ladies! For this New Year in 2012- let’s put our ruts on the shelves! Say no to ruts and yes to life!

Lord, as we begin a new year, would You help us to keep our lives filled with awe and wonder. Would You fill us up with the joy of the Lord, that can truly be our strength. Help us to live this life to the fullest, that others would see and want what we have…and that’s You! Thank you for the gift of life. Help us to not take it for granted, but to enjoy the journey. It’s a new year Lord- We commit it to You in all that we do. In Jesus name, amen.

Painful Life Lessons

boredom

“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.”

Intentions: noun. A thing intended; an aim or plan.

I used to think all my good intentions should count for something, right? I mean, I really will at some point have that couple over for dinner. At least, I hope so. And I really will call that girl that’s been on my heart and see if we can meet up for coffee just as soon as things slow down.

What? Things don’t really slow down?

How do we change good intentions from a noun to a verb–an action? How do we allow our thoughts to move from a good thought to the actual doing? Hate to over-simplify, but if it’s important to us (which people should be), we’re going to have to fit them in. We need to make a conscious decision to stop ‘thinking’ about it and actually take the steps necessary to make it happen.

Have you ever said to someone, “We need to have y’all over for dinner.” But days come and go, and it never happens. Or then there are times when you do actually have someone over and you’re stressed out, running around like a mad person. And they come and you really enjoy the company, and when they leave, you look at your spouse and say, “That was so nice; we really need to do this more.”

When I moved here just over a year ago, I was looking forward to the new possibilities of getting to spend time with all my family here. We’ll hang out, go out to eat, watch movies, etc. etc. It will just be one big party. Okay, not exactly, but I knew having family close would really be nice.

Someone in particular I really felt like I needed to connect with was my cousin Laura. But as you know, life gets busy. Between working Monday through Friday, three kids, football and many church commitments, I didn’t get to see her very much. I always loved seeing her during the holidays or at baby showers. She recently moved to a beach condo and we talked of bringing the kids by to swim at her pool. We would talk (good intentions) about getting together for a run or something, but it just never happened.

Last Thursday night we received a phone call from my husband’s mom. It is a phone call I will never forget. We learned that night that my beautiful sweet cousin had passed. I’m not going to lie; even as I write this, I’m still in shock. She was 22, with her whole life in front of her. And the record that continues to play in my head sounds like this: I just thought I had more time. I just thought we had more time.

As I look back, I’ve had to learn some painful lessons. It hurts. To come to grips with the reality that I could have, would have, or should have.

Painful Lesson# 1: Jesus loved people. He has called us to love His people. NEVER ever take a person for granted and just ‘expect’ that they will be there forever. Do the people that God has placed in your life know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them unconditionally and that they matter to you? In James we are reminded of how short this life really is.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14 (NIV)

This week has been a painful reminder that we truly never know how long our time is here on this earth.

Painful Lesson #2: All my good intentions are the same as not having any intentions. We need to live our lives on purpose. I’m starting to take notes. I’m going back to all my intentions, almost like an intention bucket list. Who did we say we are going to invite over recently? I’m writing it down, and going to make it happen. I’m taking notes the next time I say, “We really need to meet up.” Even with my kids. I can’t tell you how many times I say, “I really want to start …” Write it down. If it’s important, make it happen. Show people and your family that they are a priority to you.  Sometimes we get caught up on the temporary–and we miss out on the eternal.

Painful Lesson #3: The best present you could ever give someone is to be present. Live in the moment. As you learn not to take people for granted and to live your life on purpose, be present. The best friend someone could be is the friend who will turn off the TV (unless of course you’re watching a movie together), put down the cell phone (I promise Twitter and Facebook will still be there later), and just be present. Have you ever heard those sweepstakes commercials that say, “Must be present to win”? Well, it’s true in life also.  

We are given no promises for tomorrow. What will you do with today?

Lord, as we come before You today, would You forgive us for not treating others as sacred human beings that are made in Your image? We get lazy; we get comfortable. Help us to truly see the frailty of life and the gift in today. Help us to not take each other for granted but to love extravagantly, as You love us. Help us to turn our good intentions into actions. You, Lord, are ever so present with us–help us to live that way with others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Validation

“To seek validation from others only leaves the soul thirsty for more; but to seek validation from the Lord leaves one’s soul satisfied.”

“Um, honey, have you seen all the laundry I did today?”

“Wow, it’s a lot of work to plan out all these meals.”

As you’re walking up the stairs: “Huff … puff … Gee, this is so heavy…”

C’mon, ladies, you know we all do it. We make these comments to let our spouse (and maybe even our children) know that we are working; and not just working, but darn it, we are working hard. We will usually give them about four minutes from the time they walk in the door from work to see if they’ve noticed all we have done, and if they don’t notice right away, we will quickly point it out to them.

Heaven help us if they think we’ve been sitting around, watching movies and eating bonbons all day. “Look, I went grocery shopping all by myself with three kids, planned the meals … oh and look, I cleaned out your closet. It looks so nice and organized now, doesn’t it?!” We wait for their approval.

And watch out if they’re home trying to relax after a long day at the office. We don’t say anything right away. We make noises. You know you do this. “Ugg..” “Woo … this is a lot of laundry to fold … ahem.” (As we clear our throats, thinking maybe they’ve just translated that into, “Hey babe, can you help fold while you’re watching your show?”)

What is it that we are searching for deep down in our inner souls? The Lord revealed it to me today as I was saying, “Honey, look at all this laundry I still have to do.”

I was looking for validation.

Another word for validation is evidence, or confirmation. I need you to confirm that what I’m doing really matters. I need you to see it. For me, I think I needed to be validated because I started working almost full time. I needed my husband to see how much I do, and how hard I work. There is something within me that needs to hear him say, “Wow, good job.” or, “I know you work so hard to keep our family going, thank you.”

Here’s the thing. As a mom, we are thirsty for validation. But more often than not, we don’t get what we ‘think’ we need, leaving us feeling unappreciated and drained. The Lord quietly took me aside today and said, “I validate you. I see your work when no one else does. You run your house, taking care of things no one else sees. No one else knows you spent hours filing bills and paperwork, taking care of the banking, or shopping with the kids in the grocery store, but I see it.”

Something arose within me to keep going, taking away the need to bring up how busy I’ve been in order to receive that validation of time well spent. The Lord knows- He sees everything.

Psalms 139:1-5
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.

Here’s the Celeste translation:

You, Lord, know when I rise to pray. You know my every ache.

You know when I spend days doing unending laundry.

You know when I spend countless hours to make sure my family is fed.

You know when I have to go to work to help bring extra income in for our family.

You know when I’m just exhausted and worn out, and it is all I can do at the end of the day to fall into bed, and be ready to start all over again tomorrow.

Psalm 139:17-18
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

Here’s the Celeste translation:

Daughter, I never stop thinking about you. I am with you always. I will give you the strength you need. I will bless you for all that you do, because you are being faithful with all that I have entrusted to you. When you sleep and when you rise, I am with you. I validate you. I see you. You are never alone.

Ladies, the Lord sees all that you do. It–your chores, your day–is never in vain. It matters. You make a difference. I’ve often heard the saying that the woman is the heartbeat of her home. Why do you think Proverbs refers to wisdom as ‘she’? We have the power to tear down or to build up our homes.

I encourage you to begin each day seeking the Lord for validation. Sit down with your prayer journal and your Bible. Ask Him: “Lord, do I matter? Am I making a difference?” I promise, you won’t be disappointed by what you hear. Allow the Lord to validate you as His daughter. When you make a difference in your home, you make a difference in the kingdom. As you go about throughout your day, it’s not strange to say, “Lord, look at all the laundry I’ve done!” Or “Lord, look how clean the house is!” He cares about EVERY detail of your day. You are so valuable and important to Him, and He desires to validate you!

Lord, there are days when we feel unappreciated and sometimes we just want to give up. Our husband or children might be incapable of always having the right words (or even any words) to bring that sense of validation that we are longing for. Lord, fill us up with Your words of love and validation. Every time we begin to feel that sense of anxiety because we are not feeling noticed, would You gently guide us back into Your Word and into Your presence? Fill us up and send us back out. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Spiritual Hoarding

Hebrews 12:1-2a 

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

 

         For some reason lately, I’ve found myself on the A&E channel watching Hoarders. I know, I know… It’s like watching a train wreck and not being able to look away. You feel so sad for those people. There is something within them that is afraid to get rid of anything that has sentimental value. Or then there are the ones that have to keep everything ‘just in case’. And if you’re anything like me, you scream at the television, “Just get rid of it”. As a viewer, it’s so easy to see that once they get rid of all the junk, they will be free to move around, free to live in the today- not the past (memories) or the future (what if) but in the now! What is also interesting to me is that these people feel safe with all their stuff. For most of them, it’s all they’ve known for many years.

Here’s the Definition of hoarding: (Wikipedia)- “Compulsive hoarding (or pathological hoarding or disposophobia or the Messie mindset) is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire (and failure to use or discard) a significant amount of possessions, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary.” Compulsive hoarding causes significant clutter and impairment to basic living activities, including mobility, cooking, cleaning, showering, and sleeping.

I bet for most of you reading, you would say you are definitely not a hoarder. I will be the first to tell you I love to get rid of things. It is so freeing to purge, donate, and give away. The result is a cleaner, more organized space. It feels really good!

What about “spiritual hoarding”? Do you have some people in your past that have hurt you, and even though it doesn’t feel good, it feels very safe to hold on to that unforgiveness? What other emotions do you hold on to? Anger, resentment, or perhaps bitterness? Things didn’t go in life as you had expected them to. A friend has betrayed your trust. A loved one has hurt you. Your spouse has said some very hurtful things, and your still holding on to those.

Sometimes spiritual hoarding can cause impairment to basic Christian living activities such as getting close to people, getting plugged in to a small group, or even something simple like having people over for dinner. The fear of being vulnerable and getting hurt. The fear of being let down again. So what do we do? We hoard. We hold on to those emotions that stifle our Christian life.  I’m holding on to this anger about so and so just in case I might need it again. I’m holding on to unforgiveness towards so and so just in case I need to pull out my victim card. This way it’s safe. I don’t have to get close to any one, so I don’t have to risk getting hurt again. I’m keeping that.

But what if we were able to de-clutter our negative feelings and emotions? What if we could allow Jesus to deep clean, deep within us? What if we could confess our own unforgiveness toward someone and ask Jesus to pull up the big blue dump truck and haul it all away? What if God could bring in His crew of angels and start shoveling out all the junk lying on the floors of our heart?  You see, as long as your hoarding the pain of your past, it will ultimately pile up a lot of negative emotions. You just blow up in anger and then say, “Where did that come from?” You might feel just like those people on hoarders- hard to walk and maneuver in this life- hard to do basic things without feeling like something could fall on you at any time.

On the actual show they bring in a counselor- for spiritual hoarding that would be the Holy Spirit. They bring in a crew to help- God’s angels. They bring in Matt Paxton- Jesus (I know… it’s a stretch). They bring in family members- the church. And they bring in someone who specializes in that particular disorder- God. (Because really, God is all knowing, and since He made us, who better?)  And together, they throw down a tarp, and lay it all out there. The hoarder at this point must be vulnerable and lay all his/her stuff out there. It’s not pretty at first. But as you allow the Helpers to work together (God, His angels, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the church)- I guarantee you will begin to move around a little easier. You will begin to live in the here and now, you will begin to let go of the past, and you will begin to see past the clutter. Now that’s what I call freedom baby!

Lord, we all at some point in our lives have held on to those things that You have asked us to let go of. Baggage. Junk. Sometimes we don’t even realize it until something comes up and we spew out ugly emotions. Lord, would you show us what that thing is that we’re hoarding. Help us bring it before you and your team of experts. Fill up your heavenly dump truck. Take it away Lord. Help us to live out the freedom of an uncluttered heart and a clean life. No more spiritual hoarding Lord. I give it all to You. In your precious name we pray, amen!

We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing~ Billy Graham

Rebuilding These Walls

Ezra 9:9b- Our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.

         Just over a year ago, if you had asked me about my faith and my walk with the Lord, I would have told you,  “Rock solid” or “we’re tight”. I might have said something like, “I put my full trust in the Lord.” “I depend on Him for everything”. “My strength and confidence are from Him alone.”

From 2005 through 2010 I lived in Colorado, and though not perfect (nothing ever is, is it?), in my eyes, it sure came close. Now, don’t get me wrong. I relied heavily on the Lord those five years. But how many of you know that sometimes, when life is more comfortable, it’s much easier to “Praise the lord” and “Thank-you Jesus” your way through it? I use to pray, “Lord break me, whatever it takes change me so that I might be more like You”. My prayers have changed a little since we have moved. There were days where I would just pray, “Lord, give me strength for this day”. And He did.

Now, before I get ahead of myself, let me be the first to tell you, I’m all about a little change (note the word little). I remember I use to always say, “Bring it Lord” as if invincible. Here’s a brief recap- In August of 2010, we felt like the lord was calling us to Brownsville, TX. We packed up our things, and whatever we couldn’t fit in the large U-Haul truck, we hauled off to the dump (and believe me, there was a lot of stuff that didn’t fit!).  I remember being in the heat of the move saying, “It’s just stuff, we’ve got to get there!” We packed up our hamster, our dog, and our children. We then said the most painful goodbyes to people we had poured into for five years, and who in return poured their hearts and lives back into ours.

Here’s where the real change takes place. We moved from the richest county in the nation to (for real) one of the poorest counties. We moved from one of the healthiest states in the nation to a city that has one of the highest obesity rates. We moved from a place where we felt like everyone was like us, to a place where we are truly in the minority. I use to work about six hours a week, and now work about 36 hours a week. Our school in Colorado was not only a great school, but it was free. We now pay just under $1,000 a month for the kid’s school. My daughter was use to about 30 minuets of homework each night, to now anywhere from 2 to 3 hours each night. My kids went from being very liked and loved by all, to just being happy they have a friend- all the while dealing with bullying classmates. We’ve moved from a place where there were almost too many choices for things to do, to “What should we do, a movie or dinner?” And then there’s the whole culture shock thing. We went from like the whitest city (keeping it real people) to a border town five minutes from Mexico. To be honest, I didn’t really even think that would affect me. After a couple of months, I couldn’t really put my finger on what was wrong, until after my husband had a long talk with his brother who has been living in China for about five years now. He confirmed that culture shock is a real thing. He and his wife experience it whenever they come back into the states. There are books on it, there are studies on it, and yes, it just takes time to adjust. All of this change in just ten short months.

I have learned (and am still learning) some very hard, yet valuable lessons. I’ve had to ask myself some tough questions and do some serious heart work. Are all of the things that I have truly counted as valuable and important truly as important as I had once thought? Have I relied 100% on the Lord, or has some of my reliance been on self? Was I so comfortable in my lifestyle that when it was removed I was left trying to figure out who I really was, without all of the things that I thought defined me? The Scripture came to mind, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21). Could I be like Job and answer as he did?

Then, as I was in my prayer closet (which actually is a closet) the Lord had a Word for me (more like a few sentences). I feel like this might be for someone else out there too. Maybe you’ve been going through a hard time, some things have been removed in your life, or some major change is taking place. The lord showed me that He’s rebuilding my walls. My walls are being torn down- the walls of selfishness, pride, and self-sufficiency (although your walls might look different). I’ve come to a place where I’ve been asking Him to remove anything that is not of Him (didn’t realize how much that was!). It’s a process. Baby steps. He has shown me that He is going to build me back up in Him. He is making me stronger; He is leading me to a place where my character and my dependence are in Him alone (not external things or circumstance). That’s a hard one. As I dig into His Word, I am challenged and I am changed.

A great book to study in the Bible is the book of Ezra. The Israelites had come home to Jerusalem, only to find it in ruins. The Israelites had to rebuild. But in verse 4 there was opposition. Ezra 4:4- Then the people around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. V.5 they hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. The Lord also showed me, as He is rebuilding these walls, that there will be opposition. The enemy does not want us to rebuild these walls because we will become an even more powerful witness to the life of Jesus inside of us- and many more will come into the kingdom. In Ezra 7:28 we read that the hand of the lord was on Ezra and because of that, he took courage. And to you I would say, take courage, and allow Him to rebuild your walls, because truly the hand of the lord is with you.

Psalms 119:28 (The Message) Build me up by Your Word

Jeremiah 24:6
My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.

Nehemiah 6:15-16                                                                                So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

Lord, would you break down these walls, this old building that was built on shaky foundation. Would you rebuild these walls to make its foundation strong in You. Tear down the things that are not of You, and put together a building that truly gives You glory. Amen


Acts 20:32- “Now I commit you to God and to the Word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Don’t Despise the Preperation Time- It’s all Part of the Plan

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

            When I was a new believer I really didn’t know very much about the Bible. I was twenty years of age- young and on fire for Jesus. I took drastic steps to change the life I once had been living before I knew Jesus. I was living in a condo with two other girls, and we loved to party. Moved out to live by myself. I stopped going to all of my usual nightclubs. I broke off a dating relationship with a young man that didn’t share my love for Jesus. I lost some friendships along the way. And probably to those that were in my inner circle- lost everything (only to gain everything).  Luke 9:24 (NLT) If you try to hang on to your life, you will loose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  I never sat there thinking, “Wow, look at all I had to give up to follow Jesus”. No, He called, I answered. I went.

And then my dad suggested Bible College to grow in my walk with the Lord. Not to become some famous Bible preacher, or to have a worldwide ministry- but to simply grow in my relationship with the Lord as I learned more about His Word. Others who thought they knew me, could have easily thought I had fallen off on the deep end. First I loose all my friends, then I start hanging out in little circles of Bible believing born again Christians who speak in some unknown tongue, and leave a good stable job at the very well known Westin Missions Hills Resort in Palm Springs, California to some unknown Bible College in the worst part of Dallas, Texas- all to grow in my walk with the Lord.

If you have never seen the faith based movie How to Save a Life, I would encourage you to go rent the movie. I just watched it this year and I got very emotional as I realized the main character in the movie, Jake, was in so many ways me. I was just the out of high school version. Hands down, one of the most inspirational movies I have ever seen, and not cheesy either. One of my favorite quotes from this movie was when Jake said, “What’s the point of all this if you’re not going to let it change you?”

And here I am before you, some sixteen years later. A lot has happened in my life. I didn’t go to Bible College for the Lord to call me into full time ministry, but He did. And I will be honest. Over the past five years I have struggled at different points to make sense of it all. Am I making a difference? Am I planting seeds? Am I bringing any one with me? Do I only hang out only with Christians, or have I allowed myself to really reach out to those who don’t know Jesus? Did my neighbors see a difference in our lives, or where we comfortable to drive in and out of our garage day after day, satisfied with a smile and a wave, while they were directly next door dying inside? If it be of any consolation, I am preaching to the choir here. The Lord has been revealing to me that the best is yet to come. And He has caused my heart to not be content with mediocre. To not settle for my little devotions in the morning and church on Sunday. There are days when I think, maybe this is it. Am I okay if this is it: My kids, my husband, and our church?  And I am sure that the enemy would love it if I just settled. But I can’t. I believe we were all made for so much more. And I’m glad. I’m glad the Lord still speaks to me, and that I can hold on to that hope that He has so much more.

The words He has been speaking to me are this: Do not despise the preparation time. And as I look back on my life, I see not only His hand, but also the preparation. There are some of you out there that are discouraged. You think, “Lord, I should have been so much further in my walk with You by now”. I too went to Bible College and I thought I heard your voice on so many things, but now I’m stuck in a dead end job or I’m stuck at home wiping poop or runny noses all day. Can I just tell you right now- The Lord isn’t done with you. I don’t care how old you are. Do not ever despise the calling to these kids that He has entrusted to you to raise up and change a generation for Him. It’s all part of the plan. And this job that you’ve just been waiting to move on from- there are people there that desperately need your prayers and are so hungry to see true joy and someone actually living out their faith. It’s all part of the plan. If you’ve been letting jealousy of someone else’s ministry cause you to sit in self pity, I encourage you to spend a couple years humbling yourself and submitting under someone else’s leadership and just serving for a while- without any motives but to just serve and be a blessing. You will be amazed at the things the Lord can teach you.

Right now you are exactly where God knew you would be. I promise you God’s not sitting in Heaven saying, “Wow, Molly’s working a part time job! Shocker”.  Or, “Wow, I didn’t know Karen was going to be so tired from having four boys.” We will never get to where we need to be if we are focused on where we thought we should have been by now. Let that one marinate for a while. There is a worldwide ministry right in your own town, right in your own home.

As for me, I’m in a little more solitude than I have been in the past without my closest friends to lean on. God has been telling me to stop looking back on what I had. He wants me to fully trust Him- He want to be my best friend first and foremost. I will never be able to fully embrace what He has for me if I am continually looking back at what I had or where I ‘think’ I should be. When I was a new believer, I never stopped even just once and said, “Wow God, look at all I gave up for you, or look at all the fun I use to have”.  Whatever season you’re in, I challenge you to see it as a season of preparation. What is He preparing you for? And will you pass the test in front of you, or will you need to go around a few more blocks? The good news is- He will wait.

There are gifts and talents that He has given you, that only you can do. Do you write? Continue to write for His glory and see where He takes it. Do you sing? Continue to sing to and for Him and see where He takes you. Do you have gift of encouragement?  My goodness how the world could use you right now! Are you a faithful friend? Then allow God to guide you to someone who could really use a friend.  Right now, where you’re at, be faithful. And ask Him to give you pure motives out of a heart that wants to serve. He is preparing us for greater things to come. Oh, that we would be faithful exactly where we’re at.  I like what Jen Hatmaker says in her book Tune In, “As God begins leading us in a certain direction, we must go along willingly. This is usually a series of baby steps, but you string enough of those together, and you’ve traveled miles down the road of spiritual growth, paving the way for the development of your gifts. “ There are things you’ve done in the past like singing, acting, writing, or dancing. You just never know how God will bring those things back to be used for His glory. And remember, it’s all just part of the plan!

Lord, remind us that You are preparing us. Help us to be faithful in the here and now. Help us to not live in ‘how good it use to be’ and help us not camp out at ‘In the future when…’ but help us to know we are exactly where You knew we would be.  You’re not shocked by our progress (or lack of). You have given each of us gifts and talents- may we use them right now, exactly where we’re at! Amen

Psalm 25:4- Show me the path where I should walk, Oh Lord;  Point out the right road for me to follow.

Let the Little Children Come to Me

Being in Children’s Ministry for eleven years, a mother of three children, and an employee at the Children’s Museum, I thought it was only fitting (and time) that I write about … you guessed it, children! When I was in Bible college I actually went to the third year School of Youth Ministry thinking I would forever be working with teens. During that time, I was prophesied over. The man said he saw me working with kids, and he could see their little fingers pulling at my skirt. Although I didn’t say this out loud, I only thought to myself, “Yeah right, and you call yourself a prophet!” I smiled and went on my way. Oops- guess that’s how we know if a prophecy is real, huh!

Now I understand that as the reader you might be reading this article from many different viewpoints. You either are a parent, you want to be a parent, you’ve worked with children before, or you are currently working with children (bless you). Or, none of the above, but you have relatives that are little people or friends with little people.  I have always been pretty good with kids (ok, some days better than others). I’ve enjoyed working with these little ones over the past eleven years. But the Lord isn’t stopping there. In 2008 we stayed up in Vail, Colorado for Spring Break. I was having my quiet time and journaling as the Lord began to show me His heart for these little ones and really just began stirring something inside of me for them.

And here I am three years later; working at the Children’s Museum, and once again the Lord again is stirring some things in my heart. At times, my heart has been breaking on the inside for the way some of these teachers treat the children. Now, some of this is cultural in respect to where I live. There is more poverty here. But that doesn’t make it right. My friend and co-worker, Erika, and I were talking about how some of the children are treated. She told me, “You have to understand. These parents and teachers are just doing what they know. The parents that neglect their kids were also neglected, and it’s a vicious cycle. And some of these teachers had high hopes and dreams of being a teacher and having their breaks and summers off, but it didn’t turn out to be the dream job they had once envisioned. Now many of them just feel stuck.” My heart is breaking for these little ones, and I have asked the Lord many times, “What can I do?” I’m still asking. So for now, if I can get even just one more person to see a child through Gods eyes and think differently about how we treat them, then for now, my voice will serve a purpose.

First, I think it’s important that we all know God’s heart for these little ones. The Lord does not take lightly the ill treatment towards His little ones. As a matter of fact, His warning and even His tone of voice when it comes to His children should not be taken lightly. Matthew 18:1-10- The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Which of us is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a small child over to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, “I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. V.4- Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. V.5- And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. V.6- But if anyone causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose faith, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large milstone tied around the neck. V.10- Beware that you don’t despise a single one of these little ones. For I tell you that in Heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly father.

The Message translation says it best: Matthew 18:6-7- “But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse- and it’s doomsday to you if you do. I looked up this scripture in the Matthew Henry Commentary. In verse 6, (and I quote) “… where He warns all people not to offer any injury to one of Christ’s little ones. This word makes a wall of fire around them; he who touches them, touches the apple of God’s eye.” And the commentary goes on to say, “… if you cause one of these little ones who believes in Christ to sin (even the little ones who believe have the same privileges with the great ones) that it would be better for him to be drowned in the depths of the sea. The sin is so heinous, and the ruin proportionably so great, that he had better undergo the severest punishments inflicted on the worst of malefactors, which can only kill the body.”

As adults, we are called to protect these little ones. You see, they have no voice. We are their voice. They have a pure uninhibited trust in adults, but unfortunately some adults prey on innocent children. We are called to protect them. If we have it within our power to save even one, isn’t their life worth it? Unfortunately, the law can’t always save our children, and it’s up to us to intercede and pray on their behalf. We know how God feels when someone hurts one of His little ones.

I’ve been reading a book called Too Small To Ignore by Dr. Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International. I also had the privilege of hearing him speak two years ago at The Children’s Pastor conference in San Diego. He wrote a chapter in his book called “Silence of the Lambs.” His story is one that had me sobbing as I tried to read through the pages. His parents were missionaries. Through that particular organization the parents would leave their children at the denominations Christian boarding school for nine months, and then the children got to visit their parents for three months. While he spent most of his childhood there, from six years old until 6th grade, he and his classmates were severely abused. They were beaten, they were called names, and they were tormented by those who were supposed to protect them (and all in the name of the Lord). The leaders would read every letter sent home to make sure no one told of the horrible abuse taking place at that Christian boarding school. The leaders told the children that if they ever told their parents, their parents would have to leave the mission field and there would be many African children going to hell- all because of them (talk about brain washing a child). And the leaders also told the children that if they told anyone, that they would be satan’s tool. The abuse that these children endured was nothing short of horrific. It is the fuel that drives Dr. Stafford everyday to be an advocate for the children.

Do you think this is just an incident that happened long ago, and things have changed now? I wish I could say yes. I just read another article about abuse in another boarding school for missionary children (Fanda). There is a website that I found. Its called GRACE– Godly Response To Abuse in the Christian Environment. I was so thankful when I stumbled upon this website because there are actually God fearing Christians out there holding other Christian Ministries accountable. Grace teaches those in ministries what to look out for and how to handle situations. They have state and national training.

I for one am passionate about protecting children because I also suffered at the hands of adults when I was a child. I will never get that time back. Although I lost a lot of my childhood, I am thankful to say God is the restorer of all things. He redeemed my life and made all things new. And whatever it is we have gone through, He will use that pain to help heal someone else’s wound. Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in this world.

In the words of someone who I admire so much for his courage and strength to stand up and make a difference: Dr. Wess Stafford, “I have experienced first hand that when children are not deemed important in our world, some very ugly things can happen. But when adults speak up for the vulnerable and the weak, working and demanding that safety and respect prevail, God’s little lambs are protected and nourished. They know they are not abandoned; they are loved. And the world becomes a little more like heaven as a result.”

If you are a children’s ministry leader, please check out GRACE’s page to stop an abuser BEFORE he/she even steps through the doors of your children’s area. On this page you will find some really good tips on prevention. The link for this is:    http://www.netgrace.org/index.asp?str_string=Prevention%20Tips~none~none

Mark 9:36-37- He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in His arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.”

Lord, we see how precious and valuable your little ones truly are. Help us to do our part, whatever that may be in our lives. Whether it be giving to an organization like GRACE or Compassion to keep their ministry going strong, or to pray for children all over this world, and then even in our own hearts, to become like a child. Oh Lord, we pray for safety for these who have no voice. Raise up a generation that is willing to fight on their behalf. And intervene like only You can. In Jesus name~ Amen

“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank…but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child.”

— Forest Witchcraft

I Choose You

The God of Israel has chosen me

1 Chronicles 4:4

When I was in third grade, I remember a very special teacher who still stands out in my mind today. Her name was Mrs. Buzak. I can’t remember exactly what she looked like but only how she made me feel. My story might be similar to some of you. I grew up in a broken home. I didn’t enjoy being at home very much. And, I definitely never felt like I fit in much at school either. I don’t remember my mom being involved or coming on special days. There was never a ride to school or a lunch with a special note in it. Even though it is about 28 years since elementary school, I still have a warm spot in my heart for Mrs. Buzak. The one thing that Mrs. Buzak noticed about me was that I could read aloud very well in class. Everyday she would pick different students to read a few chapters from our chapter book. Some read aloud painfully slow, while others could read in a manner that would bring us into the story, and Mrs. Buzak saw that potential in me. She would ask the class who they wanted to read, and I remember them all choosing me. I still remember the feeling of joy as I stood to read. In that class I excelled and made straight A’s with almost perfect attendance.  You see, someone looked around the entire room of students, and chose me. Destiny was being deposited in my heart that year.

What about you? Do you have a memory of a time when you were chosen for something? Maybe there was a particular part in a school play during high school or a solo part in the musical. Do you remember how that made you feel? Do you remember feeling on top of the world when you heard your name announced?

Then there’s the ugly side of not being chosen. I also remember trying out for cheerleading in 7th grade. My friend Leslie and I were so excited to try out together. I got nervous and botched my tryouts, while Leslie shined for the judges. The following week we went to read the names of those chosen to be on the cheerleading team, and my name was not on the list. She was chosen and I was not. I remember the disappointment I felt that day.

For those of us who have children, we know exactly what a broken heart looks like when our child doesn’t get chosen for something they really want to do. Or, when two kids are picked to choose their team for dodge ball or baseball, and your kid is maybe not the biggest or toughest kid and is chosen last. No one even has to say anything. That child knows that he or she was chosen last.

Angela Thomas wrote a book titled Do You Think I’m Beautiful, in which she tells such a heart felt story about being chosen. She used to wear big thick glasses and have braces, and she never really felt beautiful. She talks about a time where she and her girlfriends were going together to a school dance. She said she always felt like a wallflower. You know, someone who would just stand off to the edge of the room and groove to the music, one of the wallflowers who thought she would never get asked to dance.  While she and her friends were in a circle talking, in comes the cutest guy, Kerry Gibson. He leaned over to the guy standing next to her and said, “Mind If I dance with your date?” to which he couldn’t reply fast enough, “Dude, she’s not with me.” So, Kerry asked Angela to dance. She said she felt like she was in a dream. She had been practicing her dance moves for nearly four years in her bedroom, to which she says, not one of those moves went to waste that night. When the song was over (which went way to fast) Kerry asked her if she wanted to keep dancing. She nodded yes, and they danced the whole night. Kerry Gibson, the cutest guy in the school, asked awkward Angela to dance. He could have chosen any girl in that room, but he chose Angela. (By the way, if you see her now, um…not so awkward looking anymore!)

And the Lord looks down and sees you standing off to edge of the room, and says, “Do you want to dance?” I’m telling you right now, He’s looking around on the dance floor of life, and He wants to know if you will do more than just groove off to the side but dance. The dance is your life. The dance is you gliding across the dance floor with God, and becoming the woman He thought of when He dreamed of you.

There is destiny birthed in your heart when you realize you are chosen.  And, we are God’s chosen people. In the Bible, we read about the Lord choosing us. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people (1 Peter 2:9). You are my witness says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen (Isaiah 43:10). The God of our fathers has chosen you, that you should know His will and see the just One and hear the voice of His mouth (Acts 22:14).

Today, God is sending you an invitation to the ball. He doesn’t want you standing on the side of the room just hoping to get picked. It’s not a mass email to all on His list. No. Just one name on this invitation. Yours. He’s calling you out, inviting you to do this dance of life with Him. He’s looking at you as if you’re the only girl on the dance floor. He doesn’t care about all the mistakes you’ve made, or that you don’t have any make up on. He doesn’t care about the extra baby fat on you. He made you. He knew of your image before it was even formed. Today, the Lord wants you to know that you are chosen. He has set you apart for His purposes. He has made you to dance. You can’t hide in the back of the room thinking no one will notice. He has made you to shine. I can hear His voice now, “I choose you.”  Don’t waste one more day standing at the edge of the room – get out there and dance!

Lord, I thank you today, that You, creator of all things, have chosen me. There is no mess up or sin that your blood doesn’t cover. No mistake too great. I was before as I am now – chosen. Chosen by You. Set apart for Your plans and Your purposes. Thank you for choosing me; desiring me; wanting me. You’re not mad at me, You’re not disappointed in me, and You only see the best in me. Help me to live each day as Your chosen one. In Jesus name~ Amen!

Psalm 18:19He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me

Under Construction

Under Construction

 

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (New International Version)

So, I feel like I have been under construction lately. Like God has ripped the rug right out from under me. Anyone? And when life was easier, for some reason it was also easier to trust the Lord. But now that it’s not as easy anymore, I’m being tested like never before. What’s a priority to me? What must I lay down right now? What are the things that I deem most valuable in my life? Do I really value people over things? What If I lay a dream down and can’t come back to get it later? Do I really trust God in everything?

I know I’m in a time of preparation and saying good-bye to some things has been hard. I thought that the Lord was moving me closer to some things very big in my heart, and now I realize I’ve got a few detours on the way. Now detours aren’t a bad thing, distractions can be, but not detours. Think about it- what’s usually happening when there’s a detour? A road is closed because it’s what? Being fixed. Well, even though we get annoyed at road closures and detours (that really messes with our flesh), what happens when the road is all fixed and the detour sign is removed? The road is new and the path is made smooth. All those imperfections (potholes) have been filled and it’s actually better to travel on than before.

The Lord has me on a little detour right now. The biggest thing He’s been speaking to me about is not trying to fix this road on my own (in my own strength). As women, we like to make sure everything is under control, and we have a plan for how everything will work out. We’re planners. We’re organizers. We want to try and take care of everything that needs to get done. But, I think sometimes we get so caught up in trying to figure everything out, we miss something very important (Can you hear the big truck in the construction zone backing up now?) Beep … beep … beep.

Wait a minute, why is that truck backing up now? Because the more changes and the crazier our life appears, the more we need to spend time in God’s Word. Or let me say it this way- we really need to hear from Him. You see, I don’t know how long this construction is going to take. Sometimes it feels like it’s taking forever. I started working recently, and it’s more hours than I would have chosen (but that’s okay). I have realized how precious that time is with Him throughout the day. If I don’t start my day with Him, I’m just asking for frustrations. But something happens when I set my clock to get up, well, early and dive into His Word. I’m like a little sponge. And throughout the day, I get squeezed a little. When I am squeezed, I’m hoping that I’ve had my fill and out comes Jesus, not the flesh!

I want so much to figure everything out. How I am going to make this new schedule work, pack lunches, make dinners, sign my kids school notes, field trip money, washing uniforms, helping out my husband with Children’s Ministry, spending quality time with my kids, sports, snacks? Well, you get the picture. Then I read this the other morning, “Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!” (- Galatians 3:2-5, The Message). That hit home- “responding to Gods Message”…  responding to His written Word.

I can’t tell you how many times I try to do this thang on my own- in my own strength. I wonder if the Lord just sits up there and says, “Okay, Celeste, just tell me when you’re ready to ask for My help?” “Stop putting your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. How can they be of help to anyone?” (Isaiah 2:22). “For human help is useless. With Gods help we will do mighty things,” (Psalm 60:11b). This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord,’” (Jeremiah 17:5). Now don’t misunderstand me, God uses people (this we know), but He wants us to turn our hearts towards Him and seek His help before we just automatically look to others or try to do it on our own.

So, as I am under construction, as we all are, I am reminded once again of my reason to boast. I will boast in my weakness and the fact that I’m not supermom, who in her own strength can do everything. I am fully and completely dependent on Jesus if there is going to be anything to boast about! “As the scriptures say, The person who wishes to boast, should boast only of what the Lord has done. V. 18 When people boast about themselves, it doesn’t count for much. But when the Lord commends someone, that’s different!” (2 Cor. 10:17). “It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value ourselves. Our only power and success come from God,” (2 Cor. 3:5).

 

Lord, help us to take inventory of our own lives. Are we ashamed or embarrassed because at times our lives resemble what might look like a construction zone? Help us to boast about the fact that the only way it’s going to come together is when You construct it. Help us not to resent the detours but to learn and grow and come out even stronger from those side streets. Remind us that you are always working on our hearts to fill in those holes to make us even better for Your glory. In Jesus name, Amen!

Isaiah30:18But the Lord still waits for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for Him to help them.

Change Can Be Bitter Sweet

Change Can Be Bitter Sweet

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy;

for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves;

we must die to one life before we can enter another.

~Anatole France

In The beginning:

Jon- Hey hunny, there’s an opening at my old church in Brownsville.

Me- Oh, that’s nice dear.

Jon- They have never had a full time Children’s Pastor before.

Me- Huh. Well that will be nice for someone.

Next day:

Jon- What are your thoughts about the position at my old church?

Me- Oh, I don’t really have any. I mean, we’re good here, right?

Jon- Well, would you at least pray about God’s will?

Me- Sure, get all spiritual on me …

The following day:

Jon- Did you get anything from God?

Me- Um, go and be blessed?! Gesh.

A couple days later:

Jon- I talked to the Pastor.

Me- Well, why did you do a thing like that?  (I’m just keeping it real here people)

Jon- I just wanted to talk to him. Have you been praying about Gods will with this new position?

Me- Honestly? Um, I’ve been busy. But I’m good here.

Me (again)- What about my writing here?

Jon- You can write in Brownsville, can’t you? And just think of all the great blogs you can get out of this!

Me- What if I just stay here and write fiction?

True Story~

Truth be told, I knew the possibility of God speaking to me. It’s happened before. And I really wasn’t ready to think about the fact that God might be done with us here. I mean, I was practically living in the Promised Land. One night my husband approached me, and asked me to seriously pray about this because he felt very strongly in his heart that God was done with us here and was moving us on. His eyes were watery and there was almost an urgency in his spirit. He knew he couldn’t change my heart, and that any move we would make, we would have to be 100% united. I had to hear from God myself on this one. As I began to cry because the reality was setting in, I promised I would really seek God and pray about this. And I did. And within about 2 days, a peace overcame me about this next chapter in our lives. And as I wrestled with God over this life-changing event that was about to take place, He showed me a few things that I needed to deal with in my own heart. I was so focused on me that I couldn’t see God’s plan for our family and for the little lives He wanted to touch through us.

My conversation with God sounded something like this: “Lord, people travel from all over the world to visit Colorado. I live here!” “Every run and triathlon and bike ride a girl could ever want to do is right here in my backyard!” “My writer’s group- I’ve finally found a really great group and I love everything about it. I’m learning so much and love the people there.” “My church is amazing. Love the people so much. Really, love the people we work with.” “Lord, the trails and mountains yet undiscovered.” “And my girlfriends here are amazing. I finally found some friends that love me for being me, a place where I can just be myself.” Okay, so you can see where this is going. There’s a lot of ME in there! God couldn’t move my heart until I moved out of the way. And I did.

So here I am, knee deep in boxes, with stuff literally scattered all over my house (not a pretty sight, I promise). My kids have been in their pajamas for a few days, I can’t remember when they’ve had their last bath (or meal, lol). I too have turned in the clock for packing. Although I would love to spend my summer taking them to the pool and on adventures, we are on a serious time crunch. You see, the summer is also, as children’s pastors, the busiest time of the year for us. We are smack in the middle of camps. 2 weeks of VBS, and my husband also has a few events planned for our CORE group. And he’s also officiating his brother’s wedding in a couple of weeks in Minnesota (which we are all going to).

Here are a few of the lessons God has taught me along the way regarding change:

  1. Change is inevitable- If you are not experiencing any change ever in your life, you are probably dead, (sorry).
  2. When God is doing a new thing, you can either fight Him on it and cause delay in that change or you can embrace change with an adventurous spirit and say, “let’s do this Lord”. Either way the change will occur if it’s from God. It’s just a matter of when. (Hopefully it doesn’t take 40 years!)
  3. Take it one day at a time- When you think about all that needs to get done, it can be overwhelming. Today, I will do what needs to get done for today. Matthew 6:34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
  4. Ask for help– This has always been a hard one for me. My aunt Patty encouraged me the other day. She told me to go ahead and ask a few girlfriends to help with the kids so I had about 5 solid days to focus on packing. And it was so hard to ask for help! Why is it hard for us women to ask for help? I think it’s because we try to do it all on our own. But that’s not how God created us to be. And we don’t want to inconvenience anyone. God created us for community, to be there for each other. How can someone be there for you, if you never give them the chance? But you do have to be specific in what you need. Don’t expect people to read your mind, and then get offended because they weren’t there for you.
  5. Allow your kids to express their feelings– Whatever the change, your kids will go through an adjustment period also. If it’s a new job for mommy, your time will now be less with them. Or you might be more tired than normal. You might need to make a few special dates with them so they have some things to look forward to. If it’s a move like myself, they will go through excitement and also sadness. I have allowed my daughter to grieve the loss of her dearest friends while encouraging her that God will bring new friends. Remember how scary change can be for us as adults, the unknown can be even scarier for them. And I encourage you to pray with them regarding God’s faithfulness. He is always good.
  6. Do not neglect your time with God during a transition– You may be tempted to put your Bible reading and prayer time on the shelf, so you can get everything done. DO NOT DO THIS! If ever you needed to hear from God, it’s when He’s doing something new. If ever you needed to rely and depend on His strength, it’s now, not later. Trust me from experience. He will redeem the time. Time spent with Him is NEVER wasted.

“But seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33

I entitled this post “Change Can Be Bitter Sweet” because while I am excited about the new things ahead at the church, and being near to family (sweet) I must also face saying goodbye to those who I will forever carry in my heart (bitter). The adjective for bittersweet is:  pleasant but tinged with sadness. And that is where I am. I know myself well enough to know that even though change is hard and I do sometimes fight it, that God’s will is always good. I get in my comfort zone, and sometimes just want to stay there. But I have realized through all of this some wonderful little nuggets: (1) Wherever I go, God is with me and nothing will ever change that. My relationship with Him can only get sweeter (2) Whatever we do, or wherever we may travel, our family will always be together (3) Stuff is just stuff! I have been purging so much stuff and it feels so good! Although I like cute stuff in my house, they will never replace people and relationships!

So as my tagline is on my personal blog and in life, wherever this road may take you, pursue God and His plan for you, don’t stay in your comfort zone, and Enjoy The Journey!

Don’t Let The Wind Keep You Down!

A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with, the wind. ~Lewis Mumford

I was mountain biking today and the wind really began to pick up.

Seems like lately it’s been really windy around here. So here I am, on the side of the mountain, and at one point the wind nearly knocked me over! But if I was going to make it to the other side, I needed to push through. And at that moment I started to compare my ride to life. At times on this journey we feel like we’re being pushed down.

Sometimes we wonder if it would just be easier to go back to where we were. We feel opposition around every corner. Fatigue sets in. Anyone? But then, just as I was about to turn around and go back, something happened. No, the wind (opposition) wasn’t gone, but I started coasting down the hill. And I started to really enjoy the ride. And I said to myself, “this is it”. This is the reward. This is why I peddled so persistently through the wind. It was so fun going down the mountain! I wonder how many times we have been persevering through something really hard and we’re so close to just giving up? You know, throwing in the towel. Have you ever said before, “I’m done”! I have. On another ride just last week I was cycling up an intense hill. I was huffing and puffing and breathing heavy. I mumbled these words, “I’m done”. To which my friend replied, “Oh no your not!” I needed to hear that.

What about those times when we do push through to the other side? How good does it feel to eat the fruit of our labor? The reward. It feels really good. And it also brings us to a new level of faith in God.

There are some of you out there that have thrown up your hands and said, “That’s it God, I am so done”. And God would say to you today, “Oh no you’re not!” Had I turned around and gone back I would have never experienced the top of the mountain, the majestic views, or the joy of coasting down.

I am reminded of the Israelites who also thought about turning around. They were slaves living under the heavy controlling hand of Pharaoh. They worked from sunrise until sun down, with little relief. (You can read the entire account in Exodus chapters 17, 18 and 19.) Moses was sent by God to deliver them. And he did. But even though the Israelites were miserable as slaves, they started complaining and actually telling Moses he should have just left them where they were! (Like it was so much better?!) Exodus 17:1-4~ The whole Israelite community left the desert of Sin, moving from one place to another at the command of the Lord. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there to drink. 2 They complained to Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses answered, “Why are you complaining? Why are you putting the Lord to the test?” 3 But the people were very thirsty and continued to complain to Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? To kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” I don’t know about you, but I’m hearing a little sarcasm in that statement!

So what does the wind represent in your life today? What is it that is trying to push you down right before you get your breakthrough? What opposition (wind) in your life is telling you “I wish I could just go back”? My sisters and brothers in Christ, do not let the wind of opposition make you give up. Because your majestic views and your ride down the mountain just might come sooner than you think. Don’t turn around. Face it and ask God what He’s doing through the wind. For some of you, this might just be one step closer to what the Lord is preparing you for. I pray for strength and courage as you move through the wind.

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

James 1:2-4

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials (winds) of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Philippians 3:13-14 (The Message)

Focused on the Goal

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

The winds may strong, but don’t turn around and desire the place where you were before. The Lord is doing a new thing. And never forget you can do ALL things through Christ who gives you the strength! Amen :)

I’m Sorry, Who Are You?!

Carol, a young mother in her early thirties was desperately trying to help one of her nieces. You see, her niece’s husband was serving in Iraq and was sent home unannounced after loosing his arm in battle. Life would never be the same for this young couple and Carol wanted to do something special to bring them some joy. She called up Disney world and explained their family’s situation. She quickly found herself frustrated after getting put on hold several times and getting the run around from many different people. “I’m sorry ma’am, but all the rooms are booked in our special hotel.” “I’m sorry ma’am, but you need to book at least six months in advance for dinner reservations in our theater dining.” Finally, after the last “I’m sorry ma’am” she just couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Do you know who I am?” She said. “I’m Carol. Carol Disney-Smith. Walt’s great granddaughter!!” The voice on the other line changed, and quickly too, might I add. “I am so sorry, ma’am. I had no idea. Let me connect you to our CEO of reservations and special events. I will explain your situation and make sure you are taken care of.”
You see Carol didn’t need to offer to work part time for the company or send in a lot of extra money. She didn’t need to write some long letter to prove herself. Carol was in because of who she was. My question for you today is this. Do you know whose you are? Because the whose you are makes up who you are.
Let’s take a look at who God’s Word says that we are. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV) – You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. The King James Version even calls us a peculiar people. In this scripture, God is describing us, His church, the body of Christ. Look at these four words with me, and let’s see them in their original meaning.
Chosen- select, or favorite
Royal- a kingly order
Holy- sacred or blameless
Peculiar- a continual, purposed acquisition
My dear one, you are God’s favorite. You are royalty. Through Jesus, you are now blameless, set apart for a purpose. You are not who you see in the mirror, you are not numbers on a scale, and you are not those past mistakes that seem to haunt you. Not because of anything you have done or anything you can do, but because, and only because of whose you are.

I am now going to ask you to stop and pray that God would speak to you before reading the next part. It is powerful and straight from God’s Word, and God really spoke to me on a few of these. It was something I needed to hear.

WHO ARE WE? By Henri J.M. Nouwen
(Excerpt from a taped message)
You are:
a. A child of God
b. The one who I call my child (son/daughter)
c. I hold you in the palm of my hand
d. I have engraved you on the palms of my hand
e. I have fashioned you in the depths of the earth
f. I have molded you together in your mother’s womb
g. You belong to me/I belong to you
h. You and I are united in love from all eternity
i. Before your mother, father, brothers, sisters, teacher, your school touched you, I loved you, I called you, I held you safe, I saw you, I embraced you
j. You are my child, my daughter. You belong to me.

We need to hear this voice and keep hearing Him say, You are mine.
The Spiritual Life is a life in which you more and more and more hear that voice, in which you come gradually in touch with the mysterious truth:

That you were loved
That you were cared for
and looked at with immense affection,
long before you entered into this little world, into clock time
I have called you from all eternity
I have loved you from all eternity
You belong to me
I am your lover
I love you not because you did good things
I love you not because you have a lot of things
I love you not because people speak well of you
or you have so many talents
I love you because I love you
because I love you
Because I love you.

As my child, who belongs to me, I am sending you into the world
where people will laugh at you
where people will praise you
Where people will reject you
Where people will accept you
Where people will speak well of you
Where people will speak bad of you.
Whatever happens in the world, you do NOT belong to that world
You belong to Me, long long before you could even think, speak, talk, or love, yourself
You belong to God from all eternity and you are sent into the world for a little moment
and called back to be,
for all eternity,
in that great embrace of love.

So don’t forget whose you are today. You belong to the Most High, and you are His favorite! Whatever is going on, nothing will ever change that. My prayer is that knowing this will help you to live out every day empowered as God’s royalty. With a smile on your face and your shoulders held high, and a skip in your step. If anyone tries to mess with you, don’t worry, you’re God’s kid. He’s got your back.

The Power Of Words Spoken Over You

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit”

(Proverbs 18:21)

As a young girl, I experienced many difficulties growing up.  Always searching for something. I needed to feel loved and accepted.  I often wonder how my life might have been different had I had the chance to experience other extra curricular activities. I do remember being in the choir in elementary school. I liked to sing, but never felt the encouragement from home to further that endeavor. In High School I discovered running. Looking back, it was probably the only healthy way I was able to relieve my stress from the things going on at home. I just remember running whenever my parents would be fighting or when I would get in an argument with my mom.

I would have never thought about joining a team, my self-esteem was much too low for something like that. There is a day in particular that is forever sketched in my brain and on my heart that I will always be thankful for. For gym class, we were all told to do laps. So I ran. There was also the track team warming up for their practice on the field. A coach noticed me and as I was running past. I overheard him telling one of the other runners to run with me. He came up along side me and starting running. And as he sped up, so did I. And he pushed me because he saw something in me that I myself had not even realized. Potential.  After the run, the coach came up to me and asked if I had ever thought about joining the track team. “No”, I replied. He asked me if I would join and gave me the practice schedule for the team. He put me on long distance and I started running.  I kept up with the others, and actually did pretty well in practice. My shoes were not very good for running so I came home one day and asked my mom for a pair of new running shoes. I told her I was very excited to be on the running team and really needed some good running shoes. What happened next changed my coarse and has been a battle in my mind ever since. She replied, “Why would I buy you new running shoes, you’re not going to finish”. I walked away saying to myself, “Who are you fooling?  She’s right. You don’t fit in. You probably won’t keep this up. You never finish anything”. And track picture day came and coach sent for me. I told one of the guys my mom said I couldn’t be in track because of my grades. And practices came and went- without me. And I began to believe in that lie that I would never finish anything. “How forcible are right words!” Job 6:25 or in my case wrong words. It’s crazy how that one sentence my mom spoke over me had so much power. I still find myself thinking that and actually allowing that to be my excuse not to do something.  I hear myself saying, “Oh well, you’ll never finish”. And then I have a mental battle in my head. I’m like, hey, who said that? Where did that come from?! And I have to go back to the most powerful Words ever written- the Bible.

And now I have this to ask you. I want you to think back. Who was it that told you that you couldn’t do something? Who was it that spoke words over you to discourage you from doing something you really wanted to do?  Whose negative voice is in your head? Now, you need to ask God to help you to forgive them. I know some people think that if they forgive that person, it’s like you’re letting them get away with it. But forgiving them will actually allow you to be free. That person will no longer control you anymore.  You’ve released them to God. (In Mark 11:25 Jesus says to forgive if we have anything against anyone.) I believe there are many of you reading this that God is calling you to step out. He sees potential. You have to stop thinking that dreams are for other people and start to believe that He who is in you is greater than he who is in this world! Replace the voices in your head for His voice, His Words over you.

The Power Of Your Words ~ Blessing or Cursing?

For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart.  The good person brings good things out of his good treasury, and the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury. I tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:34-37)

Having experienced first hand the power that negative words can have, I wanted to share some insight on what God has been teaching me.

  • With your kids- We have the power to encourage our kids to move forward or to discourage them to never try. It is an honor to raise my children. I know I am far (really far) from perfect, but the one area I try to stay very guarded is in my words. I am constantly reminding myself that God has called me to be their cheerleader. The world will tear them down with their words. I want them to know and be reminded of how wonderful they are, and that with God, they can do anything. My words could bring them down in a heartbeat. You say something that you didn’t mean and their little countenance just drops. Moms- your words will bring life or death in your home! One example is with my daughter. Her room is always a mess. I try to get her to take pride in her room and to want to pick it up, but it’s been a struggle. Yesterday, while I was out shopping she completely (on her own) cleaned up her entire room! Now I could have screamed, “It’s a miracle”, or “It’s about time that filthy pig sty was cleaned!” But no, instead I chose words to edify and encourage. Baby, I’m so proud of you. Your room looks amazing! And again this morning I reinforced the encouragement and said I was so proud of her for doing that without me asking. She was glowing and proud.
  • With your spouse- We have the power to build up our partner so that they know they can do anything. Or we can tear them down by constantly reminding them of all the areas where they fall short.  I have noticed many successful men have a woman behind them who has figured out the power they have in their words.
  • With yourself- We have the power in our own minds! The words we have in our heads that speak over us. You will never finish, you will always be lazy, you are never enough, you don’t fit in with that group, etc etc.  Ask God to reveal to you in prayer and through His word how He thinks about you. And let His Words begin to change what flows out of your heart and your mouth. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Ps 19:14)

And a final note on this: Everywhere you go, every thing you do, there is someone out there that could use some encouragement. Think of your everyday life. Running errands, church, work, etc. Someone needs to hear, “You can do this”, “I believe in you, “You’re going to make it through”. Or how about just “Have a blessed day!” I am amazed at the places I go where people are having a bad day and I try to speak words of encouragement and blessing over them- something changes in them. Think of yourself as Gods special agent! Word! :)

The power of life and death is in your tongue! What will you be giving out today?

Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

~Don Miguel Ruiz

My Deliverer Is Coming

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you, nor forsake you.

Deut. 31:6-

Have you ever noticed how people compare winter with darkness or a cold eerie feeling? “Her heart was cold as winter settled in and there was no warmth, no light.” But isn’t it interesting what comes after a long winter? Spring. Spring brings new life, growth, sunshine, and warmer days. I feel like there are many people that winter has settled in on their hearts. They stay in, communicate little, and keep waiting, hoping for a brighter day. The grass has died. The garden is frozen over, as is the state of your heart. The numbness has settled in, and you’re not exactly sure how to move on.

I will say there has been a string of events that have shocked the nation and the rebuilding has only yet to begin. With Haiti’s devastation and then with Chili’s earthquake, I’m like, “Okay Lord, what’s happening?” And then there’s the things going on around me with people right here. Marriages that I thought were solid are ending in divorce, husbands (several) leading a double life. I have another friend who recently miscarried and my heart breaks for her. And I ask myself, why does life have to hurt so much? So many of these people are amazing people that serve the Lord with their lives and yet they are going through much pain and suffering. There are many moms out there who are dealing with their teenagers making unwise choices. Many walk around with a smile on their face but inside their stomach is in knots. The loss of a job has sent some spiraling into a depression.

I say to you today hold on, because there is hope. What would our lives be without hope? Where would we be today if we had not held on to our faith in Jesus Christ? A faith in Him that promises a better tomorrow, a faith in Him that promises we will get past this, and we will survive. And not just survive, but thrive. One of my favorite quotes from Barbra Johnson is, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not another train coming at you!” In John 16:33 (NIV) we read “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I wish it read, “in this world you might have trouble”, but Jesus says you WILL have trouble. But He also reassures us to take heart, because He has already overcome the world. He’s not just leaving us all alone and saying, “Good luck, hope it all works out for you down there!” God said in Hebrews 13:5b “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”.

This week, I was reminded of the Bible story about Moses. You can read the full story in Exodus 13:17-14:31. Moses was leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. And the people saw and experienced Gods faithfulness daily. In Exodus 13:21-22 we read “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” As I thought about the Israelites, I imagined how they must have been feeling. They were tired and weary from their travels. Here they reach the Red Sea and in verse 14:7 we read that Pharaoh “took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them.” Here’s all these moms carrying their babies and young children and Pharaoh’s army will be satisfied with nothing short of their death. I think frightened would be an understatement. These Israelites had made it so far, but had God brought them this far only for their lives to end in bloodshed? They remembered Gods promises. They knew He was a faithful God. I’m reminded of that Rich Mullins song, “My deliverer is coming, my deliverer is standing by. And He will never break His promise…” The people were scared and Moses said in Exodus 14:13-14, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

And the Lord told Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites could go through the sea on dry ground. And the Red Sea parted with just enough time for the Israelites to safely cross, and once they got to the other side the Lord told Moses to stretch out his hand and the waves overtook the Egyptians and not one of them survived.

I’m not sure what you’re going through right now, but I know I was supposed to write this blog. I say to you today: these rivers, they will not overtake you and these waves, they will not crush you. Just like the Israelites desperately needed to be delivered, I say to you your deliverer is coming and He will never break His promise to you. The Lord will fight for you. Be still and know that He is God.

I wish I could tell you that you will never have to experience pain or grief, but that’s not going to happen. There will be a day, when we will no longer experience the pain of this world. I so look forward to this day as described in Revelation 21:4 (Amplified Bible), “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall their be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain anymore, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.”

Winter is coming to an end, and your spring is near. I pray for you new life, growth, sunshine, and warmer days. :)

Me Time

“Okay, I really want to take some time for me. Is that wrong? Why do I always feel guilty for going to my monthly women’s dinner? Maybe I should just cancel since my kids really want me stay at home?” Does this sound like anyone you know? Or you?

I really hesitated at first regarding this particular blog. I mean, I’m not delving into world hunger, or the fresh move of the Holy Spirit here (maybe next week). This is so practical, yet, needed. How many of you reading this would say that you have a hobby of some sort? What about time to yourself every now and then? How many would say that you feel guilty when you leave your children, so you just try not to?

We all know that being a mom is a full time job. Unless we make an effort, we probably won’t get many breaks in between laundry, grocery stores, cooking, cleaning, car pool, sleepovers, homework, diapers, peanut butter and jelly (or almond butter for my health conscious friends!), and the list goes on.

For this topic, I was honored to interview someone who I admire greatly. I have watched her over the past twelve years not just talk the talk- but walk the walk. She is deeply in love with Jesus and quite the prayer warrior. She has successfully raised five amazing children, and just last year sent her fifth child off to college. She is my Mother-in-Law, Kay Barnard.  Here is her advice to either those going to be moms or already moms:

Celeste: Kay, what would you say to a mom who says she just doesn’t have the time to invest much in friendships or doing something she enjoys?

Kay: She has to. She has to set time for those kinds of things. It’s not healthy if she doesn’t. It’s important to have our priorities in order. Time with the Lord, time with our husband, time with our kids, time for ministry, and time for friendships.

Celeste: As a mom who just sent her 5th child to college, what was that like for you?

Kay: It was a very interesting life changing experience. To realize that after 33 years of being ‘mom’, that aspect of it was actually over. I had to process that.  Of course there were some emotional times that I went through.  There are seasons of life and I spent much time preparing for this season. You gradually let them go, preparing each time.

Celeste: Do you feel like you had invested time in yourself and in friendships, your marriage, and your walk with God- that you’ve been able to just continue doing the things you enjoy and have a passion for?  And wouldn’t you agree, that there are many aspects of ‘me’ time: My time with the Lord, my time with my husband, and my time with me?

Kay: The number one thing that got me through parenting and raising five kids was my quiet time with the Lord. My time with the Lord was number one. And I would also like to address your marriage. We always made it a priority to get away together one or two times a year by ourselves. I know first hand that there is a lot of preparation involved.  We had to get a reliable babysitter, get the kids packed, pack our own items, make arrangements for activities, etc.  And I remember thinking “Will this be worth it?” But every time we came back, we always agreed it was so worth it! It kept our relationship vibrant and growing. We invested in our marriage first, and then the kids. As far as having time with other women, I loved to pour myself into the church, and people, and continue to do so today. Of course, I have even more time now. But it wasn’t like my life drastically changed when they all went off to college. I am still involved in my loves, Bible study and fellowship. It was never like “oh my goodness, how do I fill my time?” And now there’s just more time to do things I enjoy like learning new things. My husband and I are even taking a course on investing in stocks! It’s so important to do things like learning something new; keeping up interests- something that gets you excited. I have never felt like I’ve neglected my kids, never. I was actually a better mom because I took time off to do some things I enjoyed.  I would come back with more joy; excited to be home with my family; refilled.

Now it is a balancing act. There were so many things that I was asked to do at the church as an elder’s wife. I definitely had to say no to some things. Actually, a lot of things! I had to pick and choose. I would say yes to the things I knew I was called to do and that nurtured me like prayer and Bible study and pouring myself into others. Unfortunately, I always felt so guilty for saying no. If I could go back I would not allow myself to feel guilty when I had to say no. Do not feel guilty! Guilt weighs you down. Do not allow others (or even yourself) to put guilt on you. Know your priorities!

Celeste: What advice would you give to moms on this topic of making time for themselves? Please add anything else you feel would encourage us moms or moms to be on the topic of finding some ‘me’ time- and how that would actually enhance our lives and motherhood.

Kay: Enjoy the journey (love this), don’t let others manipulate you and put guilt on you for your decisions. Set your priorities and stick to them. If you have a plan, stick to it and don’t live in guilt. Please spend some time with your husband away from kids. It’s so important for the kids to see healthy parents being modeled. And finally, make time for vital friendships.

I hope you’ve been encouraged by our interview, I know I have. I hope this week you can sit down with your calendar and schedule in some ‘me’ time.  Whatever nurtures and energizes you, think about it. For me, it’s scrap booking, reading and writing, and cycling. And I have to put it on the calendar and see to it just like I would any other appointment. If you work full time, I know this will be a challenge, but it’s so worth it. You might need to schedule every other Saturday morning for something you enjoy. You will probably need to enlist either a babysitter or your husband. It’s important for women, especially mothers, to take regular time to do things that nurture our souls and keep us feeling alive; if we don’t, we could face burnout, and we won’t be very helpful to anyone! Be encouraged, and enjoy the journey!

Psalm 37:3-4 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Tell Me Your Thoughts

Self-disciplined begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward.

~Napolean Hill

My friend and I were talking the other day about our thought life. We were discussing the effect our thoughts and our thinking have on how we live our lives. It really got me thinking. How many times have we said things like, “This is just too hard” or “There is no way I can do all of this” or “I just don’t think I can do one more thing”. What do you suppose would happen if every time we had a negative thought, we ran to Gods Word to see what He thinks about it? For example: “I just can’t do this”. Ok, God’s Word says ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13)’. Ok, what about this one: “I just don’t think I can go on” Psalms 28:7 says ‘the Lord is my strength and my shield.’ Or we read in 2 Cor.12:10 When I am weak He is strong.’

Proverbs 4:23 states, “ Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The “heart” includes the mind and all that proceeds from it. Do you ever catch yourself saying things like “my house is always a mess.” “I am always late.” “I never have enough time.” I will never loose this weight.” “My husband will never change.” While these are seemingly innocent comments, they actually begin to take root in our lives. “As a man thinks in his heart so is he(Prov.23:7).

I have to tell you, I have always considered myself to be an extremely positive, optimistic person. I’ll be the first person to encourage someone to never give up and fight the good fight. But recently God has been showing me some of my own inner self-talk. Little stuff that just creeps in my head like, “no, that won’t work.” Or “I’ll never find time to do what I really want to do”. How about this one: “I already know I’m going to be so tired this week”. Hello! I didn’t even realize that I was programming my mind for failure before I ever gave God a chance to work in my life! Can I get a witness?! :)

How radical do you think our lives would change if we decided to line up our thoughts and our words with Gods Word? 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I love that. Demolish arguments. Demolish means to destroy; to destruct. That means to destroy and destruct those arguments in our minds. Take captive means to catch and forcefully hold. We are called to ‘catch’ and ‘forcefully hold’ EVERY thought and make it obedient to Christ (His Word).

I encourage you to keep a notebook; I am personally a huge fan of journaling. Every time you catch yourself thinking or mumbling or saying something negative, go straight to Gods word. Demolish that thought, catch it and forcefully destroy it in your mind. Write in your notebook the negative that was in your head and then write what Gods Word says about it. And meditate on Gods Word. Meditate means to plan in the mind. You must be intentional regarding Gods Word. Plan it (mediate on it).

Have you ever met someone who could walk into a room and make the whole room light up? They seem to be filled with joy bubbling over. I mean just think about it. What if you walked around saying (meditating) on these scriptures- I am the head and not the tail. I am above and not underneath (Duet 28:13), I am blessed going in and blessed coming out (Duet. 28:6). I have the favor of God on my life (Ps.90:17), The Lord has anointed me for such a time as this (Is.61:1), The joy of the Lord is my strength (Neh. 8:10b), I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13). I have a feeling you would be bubbling over too!

This week ask the Lord to show you thoughts that are not from Him. Write them down. Challenge those thoughts with Gods Word. You need to know whose thoughts those are that you’re listening to. 1st Peter 5:8-9 says “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Girlfriends, he will not have the opportunity to devour your life if you meditate on Gods Word instead of believing the lies of the enemy. All I have to say is “satan watch out”, because Gods girls + Gods Word = Gods Power in your life! His Word is truth. His Word is powerful and His Word in your spirit will bring transformation in your life!

Paul in Philippians 4:8 gives a guideline of what we are to do with our thoughts, and how we are to apply them to our lives, causing results–positive results–that the Lord can and will use. “Finally, brothers (sisters :) ), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Take captive every thought and you will be free to serve God with all your heart and all your mind. Amen!