I hope to inspire and encourage others through my own life experiences and my faith ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Your Life Is Going to Change Me

"Wherever you are, whenever it's right,
You'll come outta nowhere and into my life."
     When my second child was only nine months old, I found out that I was pregnant again.  So many people that I know (and don't know for that matter) would have been thrilled at that kind of surprise, but I was devastated.  The news came completely out of left field and we were shocked to say the least.  Our family was not in a stable financial place.  We already had two very young children and it was a challenge enough with them.  Neither one of our cars were big enough for three car seats, our house was only a three bedroom ... three kids would mean a lot of changes. 

     I struggled so much with accepting the pregnancy and it took a huge emotional toll on me.  Fear ruled my emotions as I was so scared to be bringing another child into the world and felt like the timing couldn't have been worse.  Why would God throw this on us during a time when we were struggling in so many other areas?  It didn't seem fair.  Selfishly, I stayed in my self pity for a few months.  I didn't allow myself to feel any joy or excitement and instead fell into depression. 

     One day, while at an event that my Mom was hosting I ended up in a conversation with one of the other guests.  Without me even bringing up my disappointment about my pregnancy she looked at me and said, "Sometimes the best gifts are those that we least expect or that drop into our laps at the most inconvenient times.  God is going to use this child in mighty ways and she will surpass everything you could ever wish for, for her." Wow ...  I was blown away!

     At that moment, I remembered the verse that I had heard so many times before, "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11.  I felt so ashamed for my actions.  Yes, this was an inopportune time, we weren't ready, we were scared, we had no clue how it was going to work but God created this child specifically for us, to not only bless us but to bless the world.  She was our incredible gift from Him.  All of the little details didn't matter anymore.  It would work.  God knew my heart.  He knew our family.  Before the beginning of time, He knew that we were meant to be together. 

"And I know that we can be so amazin'
And baby your love is gonna change me
And now I can see every possibility

Somehow I know that it’ll all turn out
You'll make me work so we can work to work it out
And I promise you kid I'll give so much more than I get
I just haven't met you yet."

     Almost three years later that baby is a beautiful, bouncing child who is filled with joy from head to toe.  Things haven't always been foot loose and fancy free, but we have made it.  She adds so much zest to our family and we would never be complete without her smiling face.  Though she can definitely be a feisty little thing and she challenges me like no other, she is exactly who God created her to be and I love her to pieces for that.  She never ceases to amaze me and I am convinced everyday that this little girl is going to be something utterly amazing.  God is going to work through her and do incredible things in her life. 

     So often I look at her and remember back to feeling so hopeless and scared- although now I am comforted by those memories because God has proved to remain faithful and true to His Word. Sometimes the best gifts are those that we least expect or that drop into our laps at the most inconvenient times.  Be thankful for the surprises that God throws your way.  He can bless our socks off, even in the midst of hardship and doubt. 

"And I know that we can be so amazin'
And bein' in your life is gonna change me
And now I can see every single possibility

And someday I know it'll all turn out
And I'll work to work it out
Promise you kid I’ll give more than I get"
Michael Buble

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Little Dose of Humility

Proverbs 16:18-19 "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud."

Recently I had the opportunity to suck up my pride and humble myself like never before.  If you know me, you know that I rarely bring myself to that level ... it's hard.  Pride is a sin that every one of us struggles with.  It plagues us and can ruin relationships and other things that we hold dear in our lives.  It also builds walls and keep us from God.  I learned the hard way what happens when we allow pride to rule our hearts and minds.

A few years ago a very good friend of mine, who happened to live up the street from me, moved away.  Our families were very good friends and we had strong bonds between us.  We spent a lot of time with these people.  They were the type of friends who you could call at 5:00 p.m. on a Saturday night and say, "whats for dinner?" and just show up at their door five minutes later.  Even though they only moved a few minutes away, I was devastated to lose the close connection that we had shared as close neighbors as well as friends.  I also wished that my own family were at the point in which we were ready to move into a bigger house and frankly there was some jealousy brewing in my heart.

To keep myself from feeling replaced, envious and sad I completely shut these friends out.  I made no attempts to have any sort of remnant of our previous friendship.  This went on for two years.  Did I feel better as planned?  Sometimes it didn't bother me at all as I numbed myself pretty well.  Other times I would terribly miss my friends and the closeness that we shared.  My friend on the other hand had come to me on a few separate occasions, very upset and completely in the dark as to what had happened to our friendship.  I flat out lied,  made up excuses and brushed her off.  I knew in my heart that to mend this friendship I would have to come clean and honestly it was easier to lose a great friend then to admit my pride.  Isn't that sad?  Pride can do awful things to your heart. 

During my prayer time I, clear as day heard God to tell me that I had to deal with this.  Even when I continued to brush off His words, He kept drilling it in to my head.  When God wants you to do something, you do it.  If you don't, He will find a way to get things done another way.  After months and months of praying about the situation I finally made the decision to do the right thing although I was sick to my stomach about it.  Knowing that I caused such a wonderful friend such pain because of my own selfish pride was a very hard thing to admit- especially to her!  And God wasn't about let me to write an email ... I had to tell her to her face. 

I met up with my friend, which was terribly uncomfortable.  I won't lie, there was a reason that we met for margarita's!  I just opened my mouth and let it all spill out.  I admitted my sin, owned up to everything that I had done and asked for her forgiveness.  Surprisingly, she got teary eyed and gladly accepted my apology and forgave me for everything.  She didn't point any fingers or hold anything against me.  She welcomed back her "prodigal friend" and I was very happy.  That was even more humbling!

Instead of feeling exposed, lowely and awful like I thought I would feel after completely humbling myself, I felt free.  Free to just let go all of those weighing feelings that pinned me down for some long.  Free to finally let things be the way they were supposed to, without pressure, without keeping up a fake fisade or anything else.  It will take time for my friend and I to come to the place that we were once at, but I am confidant that when God brings such great people into our lives, if we obey Him, He will guide those relationships back to where He can bless us through them again. 

This is probably the hardest thing I have ever done.  Nobody likes to admit when they have caused strife and hurt people.  Nobody likes to be seen as weak or vulnerable either.  As a person who holds herself up very strongly and depends on others for very little, this brought me to my knees and humbled me greatly.  I challenge you to look at where your pride lies ... we all have it in some place or another.  Pray on that and ask God what He wants you to do with it.  You might be surprised at how freeing it really is to let go and let God.  When you let go of your pride you also allow Him to work in your life and bestow even greater blessings on your own life. Psalms 149:4 "For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation."

Saturday, July 17, 2010


"Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching." Proverbs 1:8

Today I am thinking of my family.  Not everyone is as lucky as I to have such an amazing family.  Growing up I learned just how important family was at a very early age.  We were always tightly connected with our extended relatives.  Whether they lived near or far, I knew my family and appreciated them for exactly who they were.  We spent holidays together, went on weekend trips to my grandfathers cabin together, celebrated together, etc.  I remember our "family time" to be so fun.  Even when there was drama, I loved being around my family.  No matter how complicated or crazy things got or still get with my family I will always look at them as my people ... my family.  We share a history and are connected and when it comes down to it, that means something.

My immediate family was equally amazing and had a huge impact on who I am today.   As a child and teenager I fought with my parents so much.  Since I had terrible grades and was interested in being a social butterfly more than anything else I was hardly ever in agreement with my parents and I felt that they were very hard me.  I was grounded more then any kid that I knew, I just couldn't get it right.  I'm sure that as much as I thought I was being treated utterly unfairly, my parents were dealing with their own struggle of  trying to figure out how to parent/manage me.  I'm sure there were times that they probably thought I was a lost cause.

Once I got through high school (which was a miracle in and of itself) and lived through a couple crazy early adult years, I came to appreciate my parents so much more.  I actually liked spending time with them and couldn't get enough of their advice.  I became so interested in who I was and where I came from.  I wanted to know how my parents became who they are today.  I would call my Dad at work and ask the most random questions about his past, his likes and dislikes, among other random stuff.  I inquired and listened to my Mom's stories about growing up and what her life was like before she met my Dad.  I began to see them as more then just parents, but as real people with real stories.  I wanted to know EVERYTHING about everything because I didn't want the day to come where they were gone and I had questions that I couldn't get answered.  I wanted to be able to pass their stories down so that my kids and grandkids could know these extraordinary  people who raised me. 

Now that I have my own children I understand why my parents were so hard on me.  This world is a scary place and I want to protect and prepare my children as much as I can, just like my parents wanted to protect and prepare me.  I understand the importance of instilling strong values and character.  I know that being a parent means more then just being the person who physically takes care of their children, but rather never giving up, constantly working hard so that your children can be the best that they are capable of being and being there no matter what.

My parents gave me the greatest gift they could have ever given me by raising me in a Christian home and pushing me to constantly pursue a life with Christ.  They taught me how to live, how to lead, how to love, how to handle crisis and so much more.  I have the deepest appeciation and respect for both of my parents and I only hope to someday have their wisdom to pass on to my children. I am so incredibly blessed! I love my family from the depths of my heart and couldn't imagine a life without any of them.  Our history is rich, our relationhips are strong and we represnt everything that a family can be.

Who do you come from?  What have you learned from your family?  What can you still learn from them?  What can you do for them?  How can you use your experiences and lessons from your family to help others?  I challenge you to take a look at your family and dig deeper.  Christ blesses beyond measure through our families!

Friday, July 9, 2010

And now we breathe ...

"But as for me, I will sing about your power.  I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love.  For you have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress.  O my strength, to you I sing praises, for you O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love." - Psalm 59: 16-17

Where to begin ... At the end of February my husband was unfairly let go of his position at work.  It was awful.  He had been struggling with the working relationship between his boss and himself for a long time.  She was a cruel woman who truly had it out for him. She finally set him up for failure and there was no way out of it.  He was let go and denied unemployment benefits because of the situation.  Can you imagine our worries as a family of five going into a period of unemployment with no income and no substantial savings to back us up?  Yikes ...

Oddly enough, despite the situation, I didn't feel too terribly worried about how we would make ends meet. I had a strong sense of faith in my heart and felt that God would surely carry us through this time. At the beginning of the year we committed to start tithing every month for the year of 2010 ... no matter the circumstance we would give what we could. Before my husband even lost his job things started happening in our finances.  Some of our monthly bills began drastically dropping in what we owed.  It was almost as if these savings dropped into our laps as I hadn't gone looking for them.  After my husband lost his job, these savings continued as little refunds and opportunities to earn extra money came up often.  It was an amazing blessing!  For the entire four months that he was unemployed we paid every single one of our bills on our own, on time (even early) and still ended up with extra money to treat our children and do fun things as a family.  Such a blessing!

During this time we were also caught in an ugly battle with his former employer fighting to get our unemployment payments since they had been denied.  This employer was ruthless, adamant and would stop at nothing to fight us.  They went to the extreme of hiring a large firm to represent them, they fabricated evidence, etc.  It was ugly to say the least.  We were EXTREMELY blessed by the kindness of a friend of our families, an employment attorney, who took our case and fought for us.  He spent hours upon hours of his time to help us asking nothing in return. 

The emotional stress that this case caused was awful.  My husband was sick to his stomach often and couldn't even talk about it.  I prayed like I have never prayed before .. I got on my knees, begged, pleaded and even praised Him throughout the situation. I felt like David hiding out in the caves from my enemies, clinging to my Lord for protection and begging for justice.  Then one day justice came.  I opened the letter from the unemployment office and read the words "Claimant is found NOT AT FAULT and is awarded full benefits." !!!  My heart felt like it could burst with joy and excitement.  "The godly will rejoice when they see injustice avenged.  They will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked.  Then at last everyone will say, 'There truly is reward for those who live for God; surely there is a God who judges justly here on earth.' " - Psalm 58:10-11.

God is so good!  The same week that we received the news about the unemployment (right as our money had run out), my husband interviewed for a job and was offered the job on the spot.  This was also a job in a completely new field which uses his skills that he has recently acquired since joining the military.  He was "tickled fancy" to say the least.  He is making more money, doing what he loves and has a schedule that is convenient for our family allowing him to have even more time to spend with our daughters.  Is God amazing or what?!

We have been blessed to say the least.  We made a commitment to give to Him financially, which was a hard choice to make, but He took that small step and blessed us immensely.  Thank you to our friends, family and church family who have continually lifted us up in prayer throughout this situation.  To know that we had an army praying for us was incredible and we are so grateful!  Thank you to our attorney for having faith in us, working with us, giving us your time and your efforts.  Without you justice would NOT have been served.  You have been covered in prayer by so many and I pray that now you are blessed ten fold for blessing our family.  Lastly, praise be to GOD who carried us through.  Words cannot express my love, my faith, my appreciation and my joy for you.  Thank you for continuing to carry me when I couldn't face you, for never letting go, for protecting my family and for the awesome testimony you have provided.  Yahweh Nissi you ARE my banner of strength!

I pray that as you all read this, you are encouraged in your own struggles ... when life is seemingly at wits end or if it seems like there is no hope trust in Him.  There is always hope.  Things might work out differently then you thought they needed to, but sometimes His plan is even better then we could have imagined.  Even when your faith is rocked, keep trusting, it is then when you are humbly on your knees before Him that miracles begin to happen.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Jesus Loves The Little Children

“But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” - Matthew 19:14

“ … and Lord, thank you for these beautiful girls that you blessed me with. Thank you so much for making me their Mommy.” This is how my prayers end each night when we do bedtime prayers with the girls. I often like to remind myself that these are not my children so to speak. They are His. He hand picked me to be their guardian. I am called to protect them, teach them, guide them and nurture them. It is my duty to lead them to Him. What an amazing job to be given … to be given these perfect little creatures and “grow them” for Him.

My youngest is just two and a half. In a logical sense she does not know Jesus. She doesn’t know the facts, she doesn’t understand the importance of having faith. But every night before bed, she says, “Dear God. Thank you, mommy, daddy, dister (sister), puppy (which we don’t have) … maymen (amen)!” She is always so eager to talk to God. She proudly says her prayers and then, usually, goes to bed happily. It makes me so happy to see her develop that step of faith at such a young age. Faith starts in small steps.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Children cling to everything that we, as parents, do or say. They are easily influenced and therefore are very trusting. Lead your precious child to Him. Take advantage of that short  period of time when your children are young and open. Breathe Jesus into their everyday lives. As you do, watch them grow and develop deep and lasting relationships with Him. It is an awesome experience to witness! The greatest gift you can give your child is the gift of knowing Jesus.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Friend Loves At All Times

During the last year I have had the chance to really examine my friendships.  Rather then going day to day living with my friends, I have taken the time to sit back and really look at my different friendships.  Like anyone else my friendships have had their ups and downs.  I've experienced the pure joy and bliss that friendship can bring and I have also witnessed the raging storms that sometimes creep into friendships.  I have gained many precious friends over the years and sadly lost others along the way. 

Friends are a precious commodity to me.  I honestly don't know how I would live without mine.  All of my friends are totally different and bring different things to my life.  I value each and everyone of them for the various aspects that they contribute to my life.  I can look back on various times in my life when I have felt a certain way, and remember needing or wanting a specific person who I knew could carry me through whatever that situation was.  The friend that I could call on depended on what I was going through.  God blesses us richly in that way.  He gives us variety to spice up our lives.  Wouldn't it be boring if we all only had one friend who was our only friend and that was all we got?!  Even if that person held all the qualities we would ever need or desire in a friend, it would still get boring.  He gives us the chance to build multiple friendships with a vast number of unique people.

As stated above I have had my share of ups and downs in friendships.  Sadly some of those downs have been caused my by own selfish ambition and pride.  I have hurt others and been hurt by others.  I have turned my back, withdrawn my hand and even wimped out on some of my friends over the years.  I am not proud of that.  God has been working in me over the last year and showing me parts of myself that need fixin'!  As important of a role as my friendships have played in my life, I have not always done my best to be thankful for and given my all to maintain some of those. 

Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times ... " Have you always loved your friends as you should?  Have your friends always been given a fair and honest part of you?  Have you been loyal?  We have all fallen short in friendships and relationships.  It is only human to fail!  I think though, that we need to step back and examine those times when we have failed our friends and take an honest look at ourselves.  What kind of friend am I?  What do I offer?  How can I better serve my friends?  The greatest example of a loyal friend is someone who sticks by you during the most difficult times of distress and personal struggle.  It can be hard to be a friend to someone during times like that, but that is when you can be your best to those you love.  That is when friendships really counts.  Don't be remembered as the person who was around when it suited only themself and then disappeared when the going got tough.  Be remembered as the dear friend who was always there, even when it was hard.  The person who could always be counted on. 

As I look forward to the future of my friendships I am seeking how I can be that better person.  As much as these precious people mean to me, they deserve the best from me all the time.  A friend loves at all times.  It comes down to a simple logic, love.  Nurture and care for those special people that you have been blessed with.  They have been handpicked for you and you for them!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Holding On Strong Through The Storm

Have you ever listened to the song, "Praise You In This Storm" by Casting Crowns?  It is among my current favorites and moves me so strongly especially during this time of trial in my life. 

"I was sure by now, God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away."

Right now, I am trying very hard to hold on to His promises and provisions.  My husband lost his civilian job at the end of February and at first I never had a doubt in my mind that God would provide for us.  I went into the situation confident of God's plan for us.  I wasn't worried or fearful of our families fate in the least bit.  Even though He has given us small financial blessings and given us the luxury of spending so much family time together (Senior Airman was deployed last year March-August for training and we didn't see him) I have found myself getting more worried and questioning when He will step in and save the day.  I have faith that the perfect job is out there and the right opportunity will arise, but I think it is only human to become rundown and fearful. 

"And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm"

I think the important thing to remember is that despite our present circumstances, He is with us. Even when we can barely hear His voice whispering through the rain, we should ground our fears and focus in on Him. I am trying to find that courage and hope that I had a couple months ago. I am pushing myself to praise Him even when I am discouraged and dismayed. When I do this, I feel His comfort and grace. The rain doesn't always stop but I know that He is there standing over me, sheltering me.  Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  It is comforting to remember that He sees things in a completely different way than we do.  What is blurry and distorted to us, He sees clearly. 

So I encourage you as you go through similar struggles to remember that He can see what we cannot. Remember all the times that He did come through for you, when He did provide for you and keep you from harms way. By looking back on those times when He came through for you, your faith will grow.  Praise Him for everything He has done, for everything you have, for everything that HE is.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Greatest Love Story

I came across the following verse over the weekend and it really touched me and helped prepare my heart for Holy week ...

"But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Romans 5:8

The last part of the verse, while we were still sinners, was the part that really caught my attention and pulled me in. Jesus came after many, many generations of sinners had already walked the earth. This was already a fallen world. God, being the all knowing Father that He is, also knew that sin would continue to plague His people in future generations to come. He didn't send Jesus because we were good and we deserved it ... He sent Jesus despite our disobedience because He loved us so deeply.

To paint the picture more clearly and to help you understand this act of love imagine this ... Imagine that there is a parent with a very rebellious child. A child who deliberately disobeys his parent. A child who ignores, spreads lies about, and has completely rejected his parent. If you are a parent you can imagine how hurtful and heart breaking it would be to have your child treat you in such a way. It would be so painful to endure such rejection from your own child, or from anyone for that matter. In some cases it would be much easier to just walk away and I think in our world many people would go to the extreme of completely detaching themselves from a situation such as this just to escape the pain of the severed relationship.

Remember the words, while we were still sinners ... when we rejected God, when we choose worldly things over Him, when we refused to seek Him, when we turned our backs, when we ignored Him ... He still loved us. He is God, creator of the universe with the power to wipe us all out in the blink of an eye if He wanted to. When we rejected Him, He could have turned His back and left us for dead but He didn't. As much as His heart was breaking for us, He stuck around and not only did He stick around but He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may have life through Him. That is powerful! Seriously people!!! I say this to you with urgency and might! Think about it ... Really stop and ponder this act of love. NO MATTER WHAT, He loves you.

As Easter quickly approaches take the time to think about this. Remember Christ's unconditional, irrevocable love and devotion to you. Remember the ultimate sacrifice that He made for you. If you were the only person on this entire earth who ever lived, He wouldn't have changed a thing ... He would have done it solely for you. He will always be there for you, waiting for you to knock, waiting for the chance to be a part of your life. No matter what you have done, no matter how much you have rejected Him or denied Him, He is still there. He already paid the price to give you life ... while you were still a sinner ... He loved you.

This Easter praise God for the gift of love and everlasting life that He has bestowed upon you ... Rejoice in His name and lift Him up and give thanks!!!

Psalm 104:33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath!

Psalm 86:12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever ...

Psalm 68:35 God is awesome in his sanctuary. The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!

Luke 1:68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people."

Ephesians 1:3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say ...

"So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire." James 3:5

I love my children ... I mean there are no words to express the love that I have for my children, they are precious to me. As parents, I think that we sometimes tend to over analyze our children - probably because we love them so much and want the absolute best for them and want to ensure that they are going forward in the right direction.

Being the sarcastic person that I am, I have been known to lovingly tease my girls. I don't ever talk badly about them or tear them down, that is a point I want to make clear, but sometimes Senior Airman and I will talk about them to each other or to other people in ways that don't exactly flatter them. For example, we have teased that our oldest will be the least likely to get into trouble in high school. She will be the smart, over achieving, people pleaser. Our youngest will be the wild one, the one that we will have to worry about rebelling. Lastly, that our middle child will be most likely to be the clueless blonde cheerleader type, beautiful but a little spacey. Ok, when I actually write it out, it seems worse then it did in my head ... hence the lesson that follows ...

For reasons that I won't get into, there is a reason we tagged our middle daughter that way. We love her dearly, but she does fit the genre of that stereotype. We have harmlessly teased about that since she was very little. It has always been in love, but I recently realized it was wrong of me. During my quiet time a few weeks ago God really laid this child on my heart. He deeply convicted me of this teasing. He showed me that she is a precious child of God and that He created her to be exactly what she is. He showed me that as her mother, I should always build her up and praise her for the wonderful qualities that she holds, rather then tease her (especially to other people) about something that she may never even become. I immediatley repented and promised to think twice about putting lables on any of my children in any sort of fashion.

That same night I went to my Led By The Spirit class and had a prophetic word spoken over me from someone who didn't know me or my children. God spoke to me again through this stranger and I was shocked at the message. He said that this child specifically, was extremley smart and that He wanted me to believe in that firmly. He said that we will have to fight for her academically as she might learn differently then other children, but not to forget that she is a very smart girl and so on and so forth. Wow ... I mean it was like God prepped me for that message by first showing me my sin in teasing and then by reinforcing qualitites she held that I suspected she might lack. He believed in her and I needed to see her in the same way. I just sat there and cried. I was so ashamed at myself.

Sometimes the most innocent words can hurt the most. My daughter is young enough that she will never remember us teasing her and labeling her in the way we did, but what if we had kept it up? What if she overheard us talking about her like that to other people? Would she feel encouraged by our words or embarassed? I find myself being much more sensitive to the words I use to descibe my children or even the way that I talk to them ... As a naturally sarcastic person it is a challenge for me. As Senior Airman likes to remind me, even though I am just kidding around other people might not see things the same way and get hurt or offended by my words. I challenge you to watch the words that you are speaking over your children. Be purposeful to uplift them, encourage them and empower them - even when you think they can't hear what you are saying. Our children thrive and cling to our every word so make sure you are using your words wisely.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Divine Expertise ... What's Yours?

Have you ever felt useless? Maybe your life is completely fulfilling but you wish there was some way that you could make a more significant impact on the world around you ... I know that I have felt that way. In fact for the past couple of years I have struggled with finding my place in this world. I adore being a mother, wife, daughter and friend but I couldn't help feeling that I was called to higher purpose ... that I could serve God and be a part of the bigger picture.

I searched for a ministry to get involved with in my church, but nothing really stood out to me. I started a class that encouraged the discovery of personal spiritual gifts. I had read about spiritual gifts in the bible and knew that everyone was supposed to have them, but hadn't really studied it much further. After taking a gift assessment I was not surprised to find that my spiritual gift was that of exhortation (encouragement). I have always been an optimist and seem to be one that others come to for advice and encouragement. I decided to start practicing using my gift through writing (another area of my life that I have felt led to pursue). I can tell you that, when you can combine your God given gifts with something that you are already passionate about, sparks fly! Although I am new at this, I feel God pulling me in and showing me how to use these giftings to minster to others.

What excites me about this is that we don't have to search for a spiritual gift that fits us, because in fact we are born with them! God has placed several gifts on each of us and we are called to use those gifts to further His ministry. Roman 12:6-8 says, "In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly."

Don't be discouraged in thinking that you don't have what it takes to use your specified gift ... the good news is that we already have in us everything we need to put those giftings to work! You will soon find that your divine gifting is your expertise! I encourage you to uncover your spiritual gifts and then ask God to develop those in you further and show you where you can use them. Doors of opportunity will open up for you and lead you to ultimate fulfilment in serving Him. It is exciting and honoring to see what God has given us and we can use those to minister to others. Speaking from my own experience, after discovering what He has given me and pursing that gift for His glory, I feel inspired, driven and excited to go forward.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Life that Lasts

My very first attempt at simple exegeis and personal application:

1 Peter 1:13 "So think clearly and exercise self control. Look forward to the special blessings that will come to you at the return of Jesus Christ."

1 Peter was written sometime around the time of 62-64 A.D. probably in Rome. 1st century Christians were being persecuted for believing in and obeying Jesus. It was during the time of the great persecution under the Roman Emperor Nero (Peter was eventually killed during the great persecution). Christians suffered in numerous ways including but not limited to physical abuse, debilitating diseases, social ostracism, persecution and even death. Sufferings, then and today, tempt people to give up and take the easy way out. Peter had encountered a tremendous amount of persecution and suffering himself and the purpose of this letter was to encourage and give hope to other Christians in hopes that they would not give up but stay strong and hold true to Jesus Christ. He wrote the letter to Jewish Christians who were driven out of Jerusalem and scattered across Asia Minor and to Christians everywhere.

Peter is concluding a theme on salvation in verse 13 and he uses words that create powerful imagery in order to appeal to his readers. The verbs think, exercise and look give strong suggestions on how we should act or what we should do in order to be closer to Jesus Christ. He advises that we should think clearly (be mentally alert, judge, regard, use or exercise our minds in order to make decisions) and exercise (discipline, exert, systematically train by multiple repetitions, “practice makes perfect”) self control (which means to control our impulses, self discipline, practice will power and restraint). Then we should look forward (perceive with attention, direct our gaze or expect) to the special blessings that will be bestowed upon us when Christ returns. These words in association with the theme of salvation through Christ are used to suggest a call to holy living.

Literally, Peter is finishing explaining the glories of what is to come. He gives Christians a few requirements of holy living and he paints a picture of what is waiting for us in the days ahead and what blessings salvation will bring. He points out that although there will be suffering and persecution we should be assured that grace is upon us. When we practice self control and put our focus clearly on Christ we will be rewarded. “Our lives are to be controlled by our focus on the ever present reality of Christ’s return and the glory that comes with that” (Dwight Edwards).

It is so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives and lose our focus on Christ. When we are tired, weak or feeling hopeless it is easy to become frustrated with God and look for worldly ways to ease our sorrows. It is easy to rely on ourselves or on worldly things instead of Him in these situations. Peter calls us to live holier and rise above this. He encourages us to not only live in the here and now but also in the future; to look forward to the rest, grace and blessings that Christ has waiting for us. Nowhere in the bible does it say that living a Christian life is easy … in fact it is clearly points out that we will face trials and sufferings in our Christian walk. Peter is trying to encourage us to trudge through those sufferings and he gives us guidelines on how to do so. He says that we should think clearly and exercise our self control. That means we should judge our thoughts, use regard and practice restraining ourselves from sin. He goes further to say that as we do those things we should look forward and expect what special blessings that Christ has waiting for us. So, keep your minds on Christ and mediate on things to come instead of worrying about today. Romans 8:6 similarly focuses on this theme, “For to be fleshly minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

When I am tired and my faith is being tested I will change my focus from death to the blessings and life that Christ offers me. I will meditate on His words, promises and give thanks for the blessings He has bestowed on me. By doing this and changing my thought process I will be exercising my self control. When I practice self control I allow myself to be closer with Christ and live in accordance with His will for my life and reward is sure to follow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let Go & Let God

Sometimes my life baffles me ... I think, "how did I get here?", "why am I am in these situations?" or, "I just don't get it God." Sometimes I look into the mirror and wonder when I became who I am today. Don't get me wrong, my life is full of love, joy and happiness. I have a beautiful family and the best friendships that anyone could ever ask for. But, Senior Airman and I have been through our share of struggles and sometimes I wonder when the cycle will ever break. When will we reach that point of achievement that we are striving for? Have you ever felt that way?

I am a firm believer that God is in control and that He has His own special plans for my life that I may know nothing about. When I am wanting my life to go in one direction He might be pushing me into something in the complete opposite direction. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." I take that to heart and firmly believe in those words, but I also wonder ... "what are those plans God?! Hello! Anytime you want to fill me in would be great!"

I am a strong woman and I like to be in control of the things in my life. I like to tackle problems myself and come up with my own solutions. If I can't come up with a good enough solution I don't ever hesitate to go to others (keyword: others, not Him) for advice. This is my downfall ... I am learning that I need to let go of my control and let God take control. 'Soul control' as I like to call it ... yikes ... that is a tough one. Life would be so much easier if we could all let go and let our spirits lead us, but we are after all human and being spirit led can be a struggle.

My verse of the month is Hebrews 13:5, "... I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." Wow! I mean there is not really a lot to say to follow that verse, it is simplistic and powerful. The LORD has been drilling that into my mind lately. He reminds me of it daily through other peoples words, through dreams and then he plainly throws it into my everyday thought processes. He WILL NOT fail me and He WILL NOT abandon me. That right there people is love. I don't deserve His love and I especially don't deserve His unending promises of hope and security yet He still gives it to me freely. When you really stop and digest those words and think about what they mean, it is powerful stuff.

What does this all mean and why do these verses have significance to my questions and doubts about my life ... what it comes down to is remembering that I have a God who deeply loves me, who wants the best for me, who gives me the tools I need to be the biggest success that I am capable of being, who is not only walking next to me as I go through life but completely covering me. So, when I go through times like I am right now, I read these verses along with others and meditate on them and their meanings. I ask Him to speak to me and I will myself to listen to the answers and follow where He calls me. Even when I don't get the answers I am seeking, the giants seem much smaller and I can feel a quiet confidence rise up inside me. It all comes down to faith in Him and trusting in His plans. The greatest part of this is that this isn’t just my story … every one of you listening is part of a master plan of promise and hope. You all have his love and devotion, His covering of protection and His light leading you down your path. So when life throws you into a chaotic whirlwind, take heart that you are not alone … you have the tools and abilities to persevere through. He won’t leave you or forsake you. How lucky we are to have such an adoring God! I genuinely am sad for those who don't have Him in their life ... I would be at a complete loss without the guidance and promises of my LORD, and that comes straight from the mouth of a control freak.