31 Day Challenge 2017, Jesus in Everyday Life

Day 31 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: THANK YOU!

IMG_0209(2)“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:3-6

Paul’s words resonate in my heart as I write this last post for my Write 31 Days Challenge. Continue reading “Day 31 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: THANK YOU!”

31 Day Challenge 2017, Jesus in Everyday Life, My Story

Day 30 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: Masquerade

IMG_3156I’ve always wanted to go to a masquerade ball. Call me crazy, but from the first time I watched Phantom of The Opera on stage, I’ve wanted to go to one. I want to wear a gorgeous dress and a beautiful mask to conceal my identity from those around me. I want to eat from a fabulous spread of food and dance the night away without anyone knowing I was there.

Now for those of you who know me, you’re probably confused by this because you know my standard attire is yoga pants, tank tops, sweatshirts, and slippers. And you know I’m not much of a girly-girl. But every once in a while I like to dress up, heels and all. And every Halloween, the desire to go to a masquerade ball bubbles to the surface for a blink of time.

Why?

Because I love seeing the variety of children, pets, and adults in costume as they masquerade through the day. I’m always amazed by what people come up with year after year because their costume choices reveal what they’re interested in, their sense of humor, or who they would like to be. For some, Halloween costumes offer a chance to try on a different personality for the day, for others they allow their inner drama-king or queen to surface, and for many, like my kids—the Halloween costume is nothing more than a vehicle to collect a bag full of candy.

But today as I watched Andrew’s classmates play games, make crafts, and do other fun activities for their Halloween party, I couldn’t help but think about the masquerade we live out in our daily lives. Our costume may not be Spiderman, a cowboy, or a whoopee cushion—but we wear them just the same.

  • We may wear a cross necklace to appear “religious” to the world around us. Yes, we believe in Jesus, but in truth, we don’t follow Him or obey His teachings.
  • We put on athletic clothing to look like an athlete or fitness buff, but we honestly wear them for their comfort more than anything.
  • We act like the woo-hoo party person to fit in when in reality we would rather be home on the weekends watching a movie or reading a book.
  • We wear clothing that leaves little to nothing to the imagination because “it’s cute,” but in reality, you’re freezing in outfits that make you feel insecure instead of confident.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we pretend to be something we’re not rather than being honest about who we are?

I have a theory:

We’re so focused on the external, what we can see; that we give little to no attention to the internal, who others really are. We tend to make snap decisions about a person (or ourselves) based on our idea of beauty, the clothes they wear, how clean they are, etc. We tend not to look past what is and isn’t attractive to our eye. We shirk getting too close. We don’t want to know what lies beneath the surface. Because when we know, we’re destined to care and caring leaves our already broken and bruised hearts exposed and vulnerable.

I’m not trying to condemn anyone or recreate the wheel; so stick with me here.

I’m just wondering if we wear our costumes BECAUSE of this knowledge. We know others won’t look too closely because it could cost them something. So we paint a picture of ourselves, create an illusion, or a invoke a distraction to keep others from looking beyond the surface. We masquerade to keep people at arm’s length. We distract people with immodest dress to keep them from seeing the hot mess we’ve got going on inside.

I say this because this was me. I remember walking a block and a half from my front door to my high school and becoming a different person; the person I wanted to be, with each step I took. I didn’t want anyone to see the broken, hurting young lady I was. So I put on my mask—the happy-go-lucky cheerleader. The friend who was always there to encourage you and had your back. No one, I mean NO ONE knew I was dying inside, coming apart at the seams.

Beloved, THAT IS NO WAY TO LIVE!

Let me encourage you today by sharing with you how God helped me to remove my mask:

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)

The more I meditated on this verse and allowed it disclose my masquerade, the more I realized to be who God has called me to be, I needed to be Me, hot mess and all.

I had a heart that loved Him, though I wasn’t in love with Him yet, and that was good enough for Him. The only other thing He required of me was, to be honest with Him. And once I was honest with Him, I could be honest with myself. And once I was honest with myself, I could be honest with the other people in my life. And then I could be honest about the mess and start the healing process.

Beloved, when I realized God doesn’t see things like we do and that He looks at the heart, I was RELIEVED! I didn’t have to keep up the pretense anymore. I didn’t have to be someone I wasn’t. I could be real. I could be me with all my broken pieces and jagged edges. I could be me with all my anguish and gut-wrenching sorrow. I could be me with all my anger and fear. I could be HONEST.

The energy it took to maintain my well-crafted façade was insurmountable. I went to bed exhausted every day. And every day I died a little more inside knowing I wasn’t genuine, but I had been doing it for so long, I wasn’t sure what was real and what was false anymore. My goal was to survive, to keep people from finding out the truth.

And then God showed me a better way. He gave me His identity as His Child. And that My Dear, gave me freedom!

Oh, Precious One, if you are living in a mascarade, come before the One who sees the heart. Let Jesus set you free so you can show the world who you are—A GENUINE, REAL CHILD OF THE LIVING GOD!

Blessings!

 

31 Day Challenge 2017, Jesus in Everyday Life

Day 29 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: The Resident

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“Good-bye! we’ll see you shortly!” I chirp before hanging up the phone. Then as I face my family, panic overtakes me…

“Quick! We have guests coming!”

Those words are like a Starter’s pistol at the beginning of a race. Everyone jumps up and scurries into action as I bark orders and assign tasks while simultaneously cleaning up the nearest mess and hustle to prepare some food.

“Carmon, take the clean laundry up to my office and Swiffer the living room!”

“Tyler, clean the bathrooms!”

“Zach vacuum the floors and clean up the entry!”

“Andrew empty the dishwasher and reload and get it running!”

“Babe, would you check to make sure we have enough beverages and run to grab snacks? Oh, grab some bait too in case they want to go fishing. I will toss a dessert together and wipe down the kitchen.”

The stress of the moment is palatable. Quickly, messes are clean up or stashed, clothes are straightened or changed, teeth and hair get brushed, and the food is hastily laid out.

I often forget the quality of the visit isn’t about how my house looks but in the togetherness of the moment. I desperately want everything to be perfect our friends.

It’s so good to see them—we haven’t seen them in what feels like forever. And despite our unpreparedness, we’re anxious to visit with these dear people and share our new home. So before they arrive, I’m mentally going down The Hostess To-Do List, worried I might forget something.

Can anyone relate? Even if you’re not married with kids, I’ll bet you’ve dashed around your dorm or apartment because your crush or significant other was coming over…or the parents came into town for a surprise visit.

When I have guests I want to be sure they have a good time, they feel welcomed and loved, and that they know they are safe and secure when they are in my home. I want to them to know this is a place to relax and if something is weighing on their heart, this is a safe place to talk it out.

I have to confess, most of the time my house looks “lived in.” Not super messy, but untidy. It’s not unusual to have clean laundry needing to be separated so the owner can fold and put it away or dishes in the sink that need to get loaded into the dishwasher or countertops that could use a wipe down. But when guests come I want it to be perfect—no crumbs, no dirt, and no hot messes.

Then as I was reading Lisa Young’s upcoming book, New Reality, I came across this sentence about the Holy Spirit: “His presence is a habitation, not just a visitation.” And I started to wonder how often we treat the Holy Spirit as a guest instead of a resident.

Paul tells us the Spirit dwells in us (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14). Beloved, when someone dwells somewhere, they live there as a resident—it’s their home. They know what’s shoved in the closets, so the guests don’t see. They know what’s hiding under the bed pushed out of sight. They know which corners have undone projects stashed in them. Why because they live there and they probably were party to the hiding and the stashing.

Sadly, we tend to treat the Holy Spirit like a visitor. We try to clean up our messes before we invite Him in. We stash our brokenness and shame in this corner; our hurts and anger in that closet, and I’m not sure you want to know what’s crammed underneath the bed—but He does. He wants to know all of it and help you purge out the garbage; mend the brokenness; obliterate the anger, jealousy, and pride. He wants to heal you so you can see you as God sees you—complete, holy, perfect.

When we invite the Spirit in, He comes in, and immediately our bodies become His temple—holy ground. But He won’t stay confined to the room you’ve chosen for Him. When He moves in, He becomes Master of The House; then He methodically starts to clean up and heal everything that’s broken and damaged.

You might be thinking:

I got that from a teacher years ago, its been with me ever since.

Or

I can’t rid of that, that was from my mama.

Or

That (behavior, habit, tendency) is a family heirloom, handed down through the generations on my father’s side; There’s no that will go away, it’s part of who I am.

Baby, I get it. But when the Spirit takes up residence in us, we’re new—brand new. Everything we were no longer exists. The things that once controlled us no longer have authority over how we behave or think—or what constitutes our identity (2 Corinthians 5:17). And to complete the package, as we submit to following Jesus, the Spirit gives us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) which has the power to change the way we think (Romans, 12:2; Ephesians 4:3).

When we have a different mindset, it’s easier to purge all those toxic hurts, disappointments, rejections, abuses, etc.; and let go of the brokenness, shame, anger, bad habits, addictions, and guilt. Then we become who God already knows us to be.

I know, we see our hot messes; but we must remember God sees us through His Son, just like we see Him through His Son (John 10:30, Hebrews 1:3). Beloved, just as we can’t get to the Father by any other route than Jesus (John 14:6), God blesses us with every Spiritual blessing (including regeneration) through His Son (Ephesians 1:3). It’s pretty amazing!

So take the Spirit off the guest list, give Him and room, and let Him take over. You won’t regret it.

Blessings!

31 Day Challenge 2017, ImportanceofBibleStudy, Jesus in Everyday Life, My Story

Day 28 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: Importance of Community

New running shoesToday I joined a gym.

Before you ask “How long is this going to last?” Know I’ve already asked myself that at least a dozen times.

I’ve read the Scriptures commanding me to take care of my body more times than I can count. And every single time, I’ve felt the Spirit spur me to action…

  • “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NLT
  • “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Romans 12:1, NLT

…But I repeatedly drop the ball and don’t persevere.

There have been many times I started to make changes to live a healthier lifestyle and have quit almost as soon as I started. Sometimes life gets in the way and derails my efforts. But more often than not, it’s laziness—my determination flatlines. I get tired of being “good, ” and want to eat what I want. I make every excuse I can think of, unlace my shoes, and buy myself some chocolate turtles.

These are the times I could’ve used someone to keep me accountable.

But I didn’t have anyone because I was confident I could do it by myself. On my own. No one needed to be there for me. I didn’t need anyone’s encouragement. I didn’t need anyone on my back, keeping me accountable. Nope, I’m good! It’s just me and my treadmill—alone. We got this!

And then I’m downing another package of turtles. Feeling guilty. Unhappy in the skin I’m in.

And feeling like a failure—again.

I’ve read the articles on the importance of a trainer. I’ve experienced the success that comes from attending the classes and being part of a community. I’ve built the relationships necessary to held accountable. And I flourished.

But when I went back to school in 2010 I stopped going to the gym. Those healthy habits faded and those relationships ended. The accountability was gone. And I never really got back on track. Nor have I been successful in any of my attempts at physical fitness since then.

Because I was determined to do it alone.

I know my size and fitness level don’t determine my worth. But THEY DO impact my health and my effectiveness for the Gospel because they influence my energy level and stamina in fulfilling the calling God gave me. That is what’s propelling me to make this attempt successful.

Dear One, the same thing applies to our Spiritual life.

We need each other. We need community. We need the encouragement of others. We need the instruction of our pastors, teachers, and friends.

Far too often I see Christians try to go it alone. They have the same attitude about Bible study and prayer that I did with fitness, and they peter out just as quickly.

It takes determination and effort to create a habit that’s critical to your existence; that increases your stamina and enhances your vitality; that changes you for the better and upgrades your health.

Like the sore muscles, strained tendons, and burning lungs I need to push through when working out; we have to overcome the distance of time, variations in culture, and differences in language when trying to understand Scripture. We have to leap over the hurdles of who wrote the passage we’re reading, who was it written for, why was it written, and when was it written before we can consider what it’s saying to us. These things are hard at first, but over time they become more natural—if not exciting.

But as we make that transition, small groups and godly friends are essential to your success. They not only help you understand what you’re reading, remind you to leap those hurdles, and encourage you to apply what you’re learning; but they keep you accountable.

Friends, I had to come face-to-face with my pride in the area of fitness. I had to admit I needed help, encouragement, and accountability to achieve my goals. But now I have confidence I can and will accomplish those goals because I decided to engage in a community that is determined to help me flourish.

And if you need to face pride in the areas of Bible study and being part of a Christian community, face it! When you do I’m confident you will experience a vitality you didn’t know possible, stamina is times of trial, and energy to propel you tackle the purpose God has for you!

Blessings!

 

31 Day Challenge 2017, Jesus in Everyday Life

Day 27 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: Encourage!

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What encourages you?

What gives you that extra bit of energy to slog through the hard parts of projects, days, life, and races when you want to quit, when you’re exhausted, and you’re wondering if it’s all worth it?

What builds your endurance and makes you believe in yourself when want to abandon the thing?

I’ve asked friends and loved ones how I can encourage them when they’re in the midst of a trial, big project, stress, or just the againness of life. Interestingly, most don’t know. They just look lost and uncertain.

And it breaks my heart.

But it also leaves me on shaky ground because we’re repeatedly instructed to encourage each other. And I want to honor this! But far too often my hands are idle hands in my hesitation on how to proceed.

To be honest, I’m not sure I could tell you how to encourage me in times of trial either. I’m usually too overwhelmed, exhausted, beaten down, demoralized, stressed, and ragged to even think of something else. I feel lost and uncertain. I know there are needs, but there’s often so many I don’t know where to begin or have the ability to identify which is the most pressing.

However, in this sampling of verses, I’ve found some hints to help us.

 

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

The writer of Hebrews tells us not to neglect meeting together

  • Attending church services,
  • Circling-up in small groups
  • Engaging in Bible study
  • Participating in various ministries

Community is crucial! It’s not only edifying for you, but it also involves you in a community where you do life with others. When you build those relationships, you become more aware of how people in your community are doing. And you learn how they are best encouraged. They either share verbally or nonverbally; but when you notice they’re struggling, on the verge of being overwhelmed, you have an opening to encourage. It could be:

  • An encouraging word
  • An offer to take over some chores—shopping, childcare, household chores, bring meals, etc.
  • Pray with them, over them, and for them
  • Send encouraging, positive texts
  • Call
  • Write a note

Paul tells us in Ephesians to get rid of things such as anger, slander, bitterness, and harsh words. Why? These things cause division and facilitate posturing. They come from a selfish, self-serving heart. Beloved, you can’t encourage anyone if your focus is on you. Therefore, Paul tells us to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, and forgiving because these enhance community and building into each other.

Paul’s wrote this letter to the young Thessalonian church to strengthen their faith amidst persecution, to encourage their spiritual growth, and to clear up a misunderstanding about Christ’s return. Like a crowd cheering on runners at the worst part of the race, the above verse comes toward of the letter when encouragement is most needed. When a runner’s legs are rubbery, and their lung feel like they’re on fire, the crowd’s encouraging cheers can carry them across the finish line. Paul recognizes this need spiritually and reminds them and commends them at the same time for being diligent in encouraging each other.

Oh, Sweet One, we all need encouragement, and we all need to encourage. I’ve run in several races, and when other runners are cheering you on despite their aching feet, despite the sweat stinging their eye, despite their cramping muscles—it fills you with determination and shows you strength reserves you didn’t even know you had. Their encouragement has carried me across the finish line many times. One of my favorite things is when runners have completed their race, they circle back to the last mile before the end of the line to cheer on the rest of the runners.

Never underestimate your encouraging words. They can mean the difference between someone giving up or finishing strong and realizing their potential.

Blessings!

31 Day Challenge 2017, Jesus in Everyday Life, My Story

Day 26 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus In Your Daily Life: My Prayer For You

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Yesterday a friend asked me what Bible verses I love for Camron.

What an excellent question!

I’ve never thought of verses for my kids, my husband, my marriage, myself, or my ministry. Now don’t get me wrong, I have precious ones I turn to time and again, but I’ve never had specific ones for my boys or anyone else.

I prayerfully considered this as I went about my day today, and my heart kept going back to Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;

Do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek His will in all you do,

And He will show you which path to take.

The more these verses came to my mind the more I realized they perfectly capture my prayer for my son as he finishes high school and makes plans for college. And then I realized they’re my prayer for all of my boys, for all my other “kids,” for my friends, for my mentees, and for YOU!

Trust in the Lord

  • Do not trust in worldly wisdom, but in Godly wisdom—the Wisdom that doesn’t fail or fade.
  • In times of confusion or clarity, He is the only one you can trust because He is the only One who knows the beginning from the end.
  • God is the only One who can help you navigate through the good and the great to get to the best He has for you.
  • Trusting God at all times, in all season is the key to success, not ease, success

With all your heart

  • Not with just the natural parts, but with all of it.
    • Even in the times you want to do it yourself, figure it out on your own, or want to fix it.
  • Trust Him with your everything, hold nothing back—only then will your faith explode; and following Him will be more natural, even in seasons of doubt.

Do not depend on your own understanding

  • Our understanding is not good enough. No matter how intelligent we are, there is so much we don’t know or fully comprehend.
  • Our understanding is incomplete and faulty; it’s continuously changing as our knowledge base grows and develops.
  • God has given you a great mind, an intelligent mind—but that mind is His gift to you. He opened it to understand, to learn, to reason—but your abilities come from Him, and your understanding comes from His infinite

Seek His will

  • When we seek our will, it’s no different than pursuing the lusts of our heart.
  • Jeremiah tells us the heart is the most deceitful of all things. We learn over and over again that following your heart leads to despair and folly. It feels good for a time, and everything seems to be beautiful. But eventually, following your heart can lead to your ruin because our hearts are fickle, impulsive, and easily deterred.
  • When we seek God’s will, we’re seeking His purpose for us here on earth. What He’s planned for us to do. His plans are good and pleasing and perfect.
  • We can and should bring our plans before Him, but we also must ask Him if our ideas are in correlation with His and if not to ask Him to help us follow Him and let those desires go.

In all you do

  • Don’t just seek God in the big things: the school you choose, the person you marry, the program you get a degree in, the career you pursue, the job you accept, the house you buy, ; but seek Him in the little things—your everyday life things.
  • The little thing we choose can have a substantial impact on the trajectory of our lives. The mundane can have significant consequences—both good and bad.
    • A detour can be the path to meet a lifelong friend, spouse, or a key person in your network
    • A night out can lead to catastrophe beyond your imagining or consequences you will pay for for the rest of your life
    • Most of the time we don’t see those things until we look back, knowing it’s too late to change anything.

And He will show you which path to take

  • We first must trust God and seek His will before we can receive guidance from Him.
    • Let’s be real; we won’t be receptive to His guidance unless we first trust Him and are seeking
    • If you are like me, I am less likely to follow the advice of someone I don’t trust because I will be suspicious of whether they’re leading me in the right direction or not; of whether or not they have my best interests at heart.
  • His path is not the painless, effortless, or smooth. It’s not always the “safe path.” It will most likely be the most illogical, worldly speaking. And you can be sure it’s outside your comfort zone. But His path is where you will find fulfillment and bear fruit.

Amen.

Blessings

31 Day Challenge 2017, Jesus in Everyday Life, My Story

Day 25 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: I Love You

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I love you.

How do those words make you feel?

Warm? Happy? Unworthy? Full of joy? Thankful? Uncertain? Fearful? Hopeful? Fulfilled?

Over the years I’ve heard these words from people who’ve said them from the core of their being and meant them unconditionally. And I’ve heard them from others who attach a ‘catch’ onto their affection. There’s no honesty, no commitment, and no promise.

Like you, I’ve been hurt by the misuse of these words as well as healed by their sincerity.

However, today I’m not going to talk about the love between people, but the love between Jesus and us—between God and us.


A few nights ago I was feeling more weary than usual. I was feeling the pressures of keeping up while feeling far behind. I felt not just out of balance, but like I was treading water and couldn’t find a place to put my feet down to try to establish said balance. Sound familiar to anyone?

So I went upstairs to spend time with Jesus. To get refocused. Recentered. As I prayed, the dam broke. I sobbed before Him, laying out all my stress, challenges, responsibilities, desires, fears, you name it—it all flowed out. And the more I poured out, the less I felt like I was treading water. I could feel solid ground under my toes.

As I dried my eyes, I felt led to Psalm 18.

So I settled against my pillows, opened my Bible, and started to read.

But I didn’t get past the first line.

“I love you, Lord.”

My heart squeezed, and a new wave of tears flooded my eyes. I love you, Lord.

Oh, how I love my Jesus. He is my strength and my joy. He is my safe place and my song. He is my everything. But do I tell Him often enough?

I love you, Lord.

We hear so much of God’s love for us. John 3:16 is the first verse that usually comes to mind. But what about our love for Him? Do we acknowledge it? Do we tell Him?

We seek His guidance, help, strength, and encouragement. We ask Him to fill us, empower us, and bless us. We plead with Him for the health and safety of our loved ones and ourselves. We come to Him when we’re weak, broken, lost, and confused. We fall before Him when our hearts ache and we have nowhere else to go.

And that is what we’re supposed to do!

He is our source of comfort, strength, and direction. He alone possesses the wisdom, love, and joy we’re seeking. He’s the One who can put our broken pieces back together and set us on the right path. He’s the One who enables us to conquer our Promised Lands and fulfill His purpose for us.

But how often do we come before Him for no other reason than to say, I love you, Lord?

You may know your parents love you. And that your significant other and friends do, but you still need to hear it, don’t you? You still yearn for a daily reminder that you’re precious to them, that you matter, that you’re appreciated. What if you’re married and have children? Same thing. We all have a need to be told we are loved.

I’m no different. I love those moments when one of my boys gives me a random hug and says, “I love you, Mom.” Or my husband says it in a text or phone call during the day or whispers it in my ear as I cook dinner. Or when one of my besties calls, just to chat, catch up, or ask about what is going on in my life. I know they all love me—but I still need to hear it. Not because I doubt their love, not because I question their love, but because when I hear them say “I love you,” it reminds me of their love, it fills my heart with joy, and it offers comfort to my weary soul. It’s like a cozy quilt on a crisp fall day.

Why would God be any different?

I love you, Lord.


This morning I read the rest of Psalm 18. After the first line, David goes on to describe who God is and which of His attributes He has offered in his time of need. Then David goes on to boast in the Lord for all the great things He has done for Him, offering his thanksgiving and praise.

“I love you, LORD;

you are my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;

my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.

He is my shield, the power that saves me,

and my place of safety. I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise,

and he saved me from my enemies.” (Psalms 18:1-3)

But first, he voiced his love for God.

Oh, Dear One, when is the last time you Jesus you loved Him? When is the last time you told Him this from the depths of your soul? If it’s been a while, tell Him now. And then give Him the opportunity to say it back.

I love you, Lord!

Blessings

31 Day Challenge 2017, Jesus in Everyday Life, My Story

Day 24 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: A Surreal Morning

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Have you ever been in a situation that feels so surreal that you have to pinch yourself to be sure it’s happening?

That, my friends, was up my morning.

First, I had the privilege of watching my dear childhood friend shoot Camron’s Senior pictures. I still can’t believe it’s time for this. All morning I kept remembering him as a newborn, a toddler, and a cheeky little cub scout. But now he’s a few steps from manhood–and I’m not ready.

Sunrise, Sunset played on repeat in the recesses of my mind as I watched my oldest son, the first arrow in my quiver (Psalm 127:3-5), pose for various shots. And a complex mixture of pride and profound sadness filled my heart as I looked ahead to next fall. Pride for the young man he has become and sadness because I know I’m going to need to launch that arrow out into the world. I continually ask God to give me the grace I’ll need for when the time comes–because right now, I’m far from ready.

Second, watching Camron and my friend talk and laugh together sent a shockwave of joy into my heart. To an outsider, they looked like they’d known each other for years! But that’s not the case. My friend and I were reunited about two months ago (you can read more of our story here), and they met for the first time this morning. Their fondness for each other was evident as was the enjoyment they found in each other’s company.

This was yet another blessing from our “impossible” reunion. And while we walked the grounds of the boathouse where Camron practices rowing, I couldn’t stop thinking about the friendship between Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 18:1). And how years, separation, and distance hadn’t changed the affection between my friend and me—just like an angry, murderous king didn’t change their affection for each other.

Lastly, after my friend snapped the last photo and left for her next appointment, Camron and I took the opportunity to catch a late breakfast. Afterward, we wandered next door to LifeWay. While he looked for a new Bible study, I perused the shelves taking in the names of several women I admire. As I reached for one of their studies: I saw a vision of mine on the shelf–the title was blurred, but my name was on the bottom. I stopped and pulled my hand back shaking. I was confused and scared. Then God whispered to my heart: “Baby, I’m giving you the necessary grace now. I’m strengthening your arm to launch your sons into the world, under My care. You’ve trained them up in the way they should go; they won’t depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). And I’m giving you this ministry for your next phase life. Trust me.”

I confess, my vision is blurry with tears, and my heart is a little raw as I write this. I’m sure if I waited a few days this post would be more polished and refined.

But I promised to be honest.

No, I’m not ready to let my boys go. But I trust God’s grace will be sufficient for when the time comes, despite the tears (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). And when my quiver is empty, somehow, I don’t think my house will be. Between writing, ministry, and mentoring there will always be someone to pour into, someone to love, someone to teach, and someone to introduce to Jesus. Thank you for being on the journey with me.

Blessings

31 Day Challenge 2017, Jesus in Everyday Life, My Story

Day 23 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: It’s Time To Escape!

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If you could escape anywhere for a week where would you go? What would you do? Who would be with you? Or would you be alone?

These last few weeks I’ve been finding myself daydreaming about a marvelous little cabin on the North Shore of Lake Superior. I had the joy of spending six days there this past Apri, and I’m anxious to go back. It was me, my computer, a few books (okay maybe it was more like 20 books), a fireplace, and a view of my most favorite lake.

After I parked my car and unloaded, I didn’t climb back behind the wheel until it was time to leave. The only time I went out of the cabin was to get more firewood. I brought all of my food with me and a small crockpot to warm it up. I had no reason to leave—but I could have if I wanted to. I didn’t.

I was alone. And I was writing. I was able to focus without distraction (I turned off my phone). I had no errands to run, laundry to do, or boys to taxi. I didn’t have to talk to anyone unless I wanted to. I spent the week in prayer, in tears, and in writing. I didn’t watch the TV or listen to much music. It was quiet, minus the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore.

It was a time of healing for my overwhelmed heart. It was a time of refreshment and restoration for my ragged soul.

I had never done anything like that before, and I’m craving it again now.

Why?

Though I did get to relax, I worked hard while I was there. Though the extended alone time was blissful for this introvert, I still had connections to the outside world. But that’s not it.

I’m craving it now because I had time to become wholly undone with my Savior. I had no schedule to keep which offered me concentrated time in His Word. I fell on my face before Him seeking direction, trying to discern where He was leading me. And He met me there. He took me was into His arms—and let me rest. He took my worry. My confusion. My fear. And He gave me His strong arm. His promise to provide me with His words, as long as I continue to seek Him. And He gave me His peace as I venture further into this whole writing thing He has called me to do.

Beloved, as I look through Scripture, I find many people who took time to learn more about their calling or to prepare for the next phase of their purpose. People like Paul and John the Baptist, who took time alone to learn about this great God we serve, how to best love others, and how to be more effective for the Kingdom. And some, like Jesus, took time alone to rest and be refreshed before getting back to it.

So I ask again: If you could escape anywhere for a week where would you go? What would you do? Who would be with you? Or would you be alone?

We all need a time of refreshment, of Sabbath. Our lives are a constant stream of demands, fulfilling requirements, meeting needs, and ministering to others. And after a while, we tend to run on fumes; on the brink of breaking down. You see it in the eyes of people your co-workers. You see it in the faces of those you encounter at church. You see it on the slumped shoulders of those you cross paths with around town. You may even see it in the mirror.

Make the time and take the time to escape with your Savior. Make the necessary arrangements: put in for time off, arrange childcare, schedule others to drive kids to/from activities and sports, get someone to feed the dog etc. If you need to save some cash to go, start saving now. Make it a priority. Book it, schedule it—it will give you something to look forward to. If a week is too long, make it a long weekend. But go. You won’t regret it.

I came back from my week away refreshed but determined to keep going. I made significant progress in my writing and my faith. When I came home I was ready to tackle the next step in my journey—even it is was the mountain of laundry that erupted while I was gone.

Blessings!

31 Day Challenge 2017, Jesus in Everyday Life, My Story

Day 22 of 31 Days of Seeing Jesus in Your Daily Life: OOOOOH Shiny!

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I love shiny things! I love new shoes and outfits, jewelry, crystal, oiled wood, polished stone, and sunshine glittering off the lake. I jokingly tell my husband, diamonds may not be this girl’s best friend, but sapphires, emeralds, and amethysts are some of her favorite companions.

Ladies, I know I’m not alone here. And, Gentlemen, I know women aren’t the only ones under the spell of The Shiny. I have seen many men suffer from whiplash because of a beautiful car or motorcycle zooming past; or witnessed them drooling over electronics, hunting or fishing gear; or watched their knees go weak at a new tool or boat.

What is it about shiny things that grab our attention? Why are we attracted to their luster? Why do we crave to own things that sparkle?

My theory is, we love new things. If we didn’t, impulse buying wouldn’t be such an epidemic.

Have you ever noticed the thill at getting something new? It doesn’t matter if it was a new outfit, house, or a puppy. It also doesn’t matter if it was a gift or something we bought for ourselves. The flood of pleasure that fills us is real and palatable. Exciting!

This thrill comes from the release of dopamine in our brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends the feel-good feeling connected to reward-motivated behavior, like getting something new.

Please understand I’m not against getting new things, but there was a time in my life I had an addiction to The Shiny that was destroying my family and me. There was a time I was dependant on the dopamine release from getting something new and shiny.

When I was living in the pit of depression, my drug of choice was compulsive spending. Others may choose different means to get their dopamine fix such as substance abuse, sexual addictions, gambling, food, etc.–but not me, I craved things that glistened. I was obsessed with the feel-good feeling connected with getting something new. And even if the object still gleamed in the light, its luster would fade in my eyes as the dopamine dissipated, and I would be off looking for the next hit. Why? Because when I had the dopamine in my system, I didn’t have the face the things tearing me apart inside.

But then I learned there was a better way.

I found The True Shiny. The One that doesn’t fade. The One who keeps a constant stream of dopamine in my system as long as I am following Him, studying His Word, and engaging in prayer. The One who fills me with a better feel-good feeling than I could hope or imagine when I participate in worship, lean into solid teaching, and submit to His leading in my life.


“…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

I had grown up in the church and believed in Jesus. I went on the retreats and participated in the mission trips. But I hadn’t realized I’d neglected to BELIEVE Him or follow Him. Nor had I allowed Him to make me new. And If I wasn’t new, the old was still present.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

I had to allow God to transform me into a new person! In other words, I needed to ask Him to by offering my body and mind to Him as living and holy sacrifices! And once I did, He not only make me new, but He changed the way I think. Beloved, I can’t tell you what hope and joy flooded my heart because of this. I wasn’t required to engage in destructive behavior to release the dopamine in my body anymore. There was a better way!

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Believing God. Not just believing in Him, but believing Him. Coming to Him, putting my faith in Him, and seeking Him earnestly—that’s where I would find my reward. My joy. My purpose. When I learned this, Luke 12:34 made much more sense:

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

I had been building my treasure here on earth, and I was never satisfied. But when I started building my treasure in Heaven, I have been more fulfilled than I ever thought possible.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

Now I realize The Shiny I was pursuing faded because it was a poor imitation True Shiny I was seeking–the light of Jesus Christ, shining in and through me. I bought those glimmering objects because I was settling for something instead pursuing Someone. And beloved His radiance doesn’t dim or get dull. Talk about shiny!

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said,“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”” John 8:12

““You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16

“For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

“Trust in the LORD and do good.

Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the LORD,

and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD.

Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,

and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.” Psalms 37:3-6

Blessings!