Sunday, June 30, 2013

And The Greatest of These is Love

Growing up, I saw a marriage in my parents that taught me that love was many things.  There may be times when it was happy, or sad; easy or difficult; warm or cool.  Yet, it taught me that through it all, love was enduring and wonderful.

This was the love I looked for in my life.  My first marriage was not the direction God chose for me.  I believe it was the direction I wanted to choose for myself.  I was blessed with two wonderful children from that marriage and it ended in divorce.  As tough as it was at the time, I now realize that the divorce as well was a blessing.  

During the time I was a single parent, I was afforded the opportunity to attend a Stephen Curtis Chapman concert.  A friend from church encouraged me to attend.  I remember that evening like it was yesterday.  Through all the wonderful praise and worship music that was shared, one song was impressionable, "I Will Be Here".  Stephen spoke lovingly of his wife prior to singing this song, and a tear was shed from my eye.  Yet, my friend said to me, "Listen to the words - it is Jesus singing to you."  I did listen to the words in such a manner and played that song over and over again when I needed to feel Jesus' presence beside me.  You see, it is a love song.  Jesus loves me and when I listened to this song, I felt as if Jesus was there guiding me and caring for me, when I felt alone at times.

On Tuesday, I will be very blessed to be celebrating my 8th wedding anniversary with the true love of my life.  Another dear friend brought us together, and we have enjoyed a marriage that has shown me love in a new way.  We have seen times that were happy and sad, easy and difficult, warm and cool.  Our love is enduring and wonderful.  When I think of my husband, Juan, I know that this time God chose for me.  And he chose well!!  He selected a man who respects me, loves me and our family, and believes that God is the center of our family.  

We blended our families eight years ago.  At the time, I had a 15 and 10 year old.  He had a 9 and 8 year old.  It wasn't easy going from a family of 3 each to a family of 6.  It wasn't easy to raise four teenagers in one house.  Yet, our focus was always to try and raise our family as God would want us to, and to love each other as God would want us to.  God has blessed us!!

Now, when I hear the song, "I Will Be Here", I think of my wonderful husband and of the Savior who guided me to him.  So today, as I look forward to sharing another year of love with Juan, I would like to share a song with all of you that let's us know Jesus (and I, Juan), will always be here.  Here is my gift to you, Juan.  I love you!!

"...And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love."  (NIV)  
1 Corinthians 13:13

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

It's amazing to me how endings and beginnings have incredible relationships.  As we near the end of chapters in our lives and begin new ones, I believe it is what we carry over from one to the other that encourages us, helps us to grow, makes us stronger.

This is the last week of an online Bible study that helped me to begin a wonderful and new journey.  With Melissa Taylor and her team of stress busters (including the great Tracie Miles whose book Stressed-Less Living is transforming), I have opened doors to understanding that I didn't have before.  The learnings and growth that not only myself, but others, have had through this experience have been life-changing.  It is freeing to know that the weight of the world "can" be lifted off your shoulders, that you can have peace and that your life can be filled with goodness.

Although the book, truly each chapter, has many moments of learning, I believe my breakthrough moment came as early as the 2nd and 3rd chapters.  It was then that I realized that "I" control my stress and all I needed to do was to let go and let God.  It seems simple enough to say, but for us "control freaks" out there (come on, you can admit it), it is a very hard thing to do.  It is our desire in life for everything to be controlled by us, through daily lists, tasks and stress-filled moments.

It was then that I realized that when I go to God first, when I make him my priority, the rest of my life files in right behind it.  What an incredible feeling it is.  Tonight, I went back through my "journal of hope" as I called it, to review where I was and how far I have come.  Below I will share an entry I wrote over two months ago, a entry I wrote as if God was speaking to me:

All you need to do, Susan, is to let go.  Your control is not yours to own.  Give it to me, and I will give you peace.  The joy you feel when peace surrounds you is me giving you the hug of understanding & release.  Put your head on my shoulder and hold my hand.  Let my peace rush through you.  The trials you encounter are mine when you have the courage to give them to me.

I continue to try to do this.  It isn't easy and it is a journey.  Yet, God's word, and the verses that we continue to learn about, bring me the peace that I now feel.  I have already purchased copies of this book and shared it with some co-workers.  It was my Mother's Day gift to them.  I pray it makes the impact in their lives that it had in mine.

I thought Bible Studies needed to be around a kitchen table or in a church fellowship hall.  I have learned that God has an entire world of friends for me to be supported by.  I just hope I can support them as well.  My favorite verse that was shared through this study is how I will end . . .

"My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (NIV)  Exodus 33:14 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Journey to Healing

Healing:  to make sound or whole.  When I see the word healing, my mind goes towards healing of a physical nature.  There have been plenty of situations in my life where this word has had an impact. 

Many years ago, my father became very ill.  Healing seemed to be a word that evaded him.  He spent many long months in a hospital bed.  Finally, the day came when he was able to come home.  It was a great day.  Although the years ahead proved to be filled with pain and suffering each day, he was healed enough to enjoy moments with his family - many more years than had originally been granted to him by doctors.  His journey to healing was long and arduous, but fruitful.

Years later, my own illness came to light.  I was diagnosed with cancer.  Long months of surgeries, chemo, and radiation almost proved to be more than I could handle.  Most days I felt more sick than before my diagnosis - not truly understanding how this could be!  Healing seemed to be far off and something that would never be grasped.  The side effects of nausea, sickness, loss of my hair, and burns from the radiation seemed more than I could bear.  That was over 13 years ago; healing was granted.  The journey was long, but fruitful.

Most recently, my mother experienced her own share of illness.  For all those years, with my dad and me, she had been our support systems, a foundation for our healing.  Now, she had an illness of her own - her heart.  The first of this year saw her in the hospital with valves being replaced and repaired, and many weeks of wondering if healing would be granted.  She labored to get well, she struggled to feel better.  Just weeks after the surgery and only a few days after being home, bronchitis set in.  Set backs seemed to plague her.   Yet, this past week, she received incredible news, healing has occurred.  She has been released from many medications and her energy and overall demeanor is wonderful - the vibrant and active mom I had known has returned; she has been healed.  Her long journey of healing has been fruitful.

Yet, healing occurs far past the physical nature.  Healing of our souls, of our faith, can be a much stronger type of healing.  This type of healing can actually bring us physical healing.  This type of healing can last a lifetime.  

During the past four months, I have been on a healing journey.  Years upon years, I have lived a stress-filled life, one by which was overshadowed by never having any "down time" and barely having enough time in the day to get everything done on my "to do" list.  Yes, I am a working mom and have much to do.  Yet, I was always burdened with so much to do that I felt a huge weight, literally, on my shoulders at all times.  Have you been there?  Are you there today?  The last thing I could possibly add to my list was another book, another Bible study.  Every moment of my life was filled.

I began an online Bible study based on the book Stressed Less Living.  I was determined to get my life back under control and become a better wife, mother and more importantly, a better daughter in Christ.  It was time!!  What I never thought would happen, though, was the journey I am now on that is truly "filling me up". This book, and the study that ensued, showed me that putting Christ FIRST in my life, first on my "to do" list, would refocus my world and change me forever.  A light has captured my heart, the light of God's Word, and the healing has occurred.

My days start with His word, through devotion and scripture.  Bible verses are everywhere, saved on notes, daytimers, computers, phones - anywhere that I can see them.  I have never been good at memorizing scripture and have always marveled at those who can.  Instead of "stressing" to try to memorize, I have it all available - whenever I need it.  I share it, in cards, in letters, in emails, and most recently, in this blog.  Peace has replaced the burden weighing down on my shoulders.  The restoration of my soul had begun.

There are many days when I find myself faltering back, back on old ways or old thoughts that would drive my stress-filled moments.  Yet, now I catch myself.  It is a journey, right?  I may never be "fully healed", but I am enjoying the path to healing.  It has taken almost 50 years to reach the point where I am today - soon I will be celebrating a milestone birthday.  I thought this would be a difficult chapter to embark on in my life.  Now, I am looking forward to it.  Christ, and those who engaged in the Bible Study, provided the light of a new day for me.  I now get to experience the healing.  Blessings abound!!

What part of your life needs healing?  Maybe it is physical healing.  God is there for you, to restore.  Maybe it is addictive healing.  God is there for you, to restore.  Maybe it is soul healing.  God is there for you, to restore.  Maybe it is faith healing.  God will ALWAYS be there for you, to restore.  Simply have faith and trust Him - He will heal.

"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard." (NIV ) Isaiah 58:8

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gardener's Delight

It is Father's Day!  I know many of you may feel the same way I do, but I truly had the best father in the world!  Now, please note that this doesn't mean that we didn't have our moments!  He was known as the "most strict" dad when I was growing up, the "most unreasonable" dad, the "meanest" dad, and yes, there were days when I felt that.  Yet, there were more days when I felt his incredible compassion, his unconditional love, and his ray of sunshine.  The song I remember most with my dad was "You Are My Sunshine", and with that, were sunflowers.  The two seemed to go hand in hand.

You see, Daddy is where I got the name of this blog, Simple Faith.  My dad had a very simple outlook on faith.  You believed in Jesus, Our Savior, who did something so incredible as to die on the cross for MY sins, and you ensure that you treat others with respect and a smile.  He always left an impression on others that they remembered him for his generous heart.  He loved his God and wanted to make sure we all did as well.

My dad was many things, one of those was definitely a disciplinarian.  There were many things that other kids "got to do" that my brother and I were not allowed to participate in.  My dad didn't believe in sleepovers, he didn't believe in wearing jeans to school (it was a while ago), he didn't believe in "hanging out" at all hours of the night.  My dad believed in family and relished our time together.  I remember more of my childhood with my family than anything else - and they are great memories.  Probably the greatest impression Daddy had on my brother and me was with his incredible garden.  He loved his vegetable garden, his rose bushes, his fruit trees, etc.  Yet, I now fully believe what he was 'pruning' most was his children for the world ahead.  He shared many life lessons while we weeded the garden, plucked dandelions, harvested the vegetables, etc.  

So what life lessons did he teach?  Simply, our faith should include the following:

We should be "weeding our gardens" daily, looking at our lives and ensuring that the sins we will inevitably make aren't consistent - that we learn from our sins and create a garden of life that produces more "good" than "evil".  We should be "fertilizing our gardens" daily, providing food for our lives - not just the type of food that will keep the bodies God gave us healthy, but the type of food that will feed our souls (reading God's Word, daily devotion, Bible studies).  We should be "talking to our gardens" daily, praying to God in praise for all He has given us, in requests for all that we and those around us need, and in hope for our days to come.  We should be "sowing our gardens", planting seeds of faith in those around us.  This is where Daddy's Simple Faith was strongest.  His actions to others were generous and compassionate.  Our actions can sow seeds of faith to those around us as well.  We should "harvest our gardens", giving thanks to God for all that He has blessed us with - each and every day.

Yes, I loved my earthly father dearly.  Although I miss him every day, I know he is with my Heavenly Father, the true gardener.  Our Heavenly Father is the one who created us, knows us, guides us, disciplines us from afar, and blesses us.  Our Heavenly Father grants us life on this earth, but more importantly, promises us a grand room that awaits us in our eternal life in heaven.  I look forward to the day when I get to see my earthly father again - and get to finally meet, face to face, with my wonderful and gracious Heavenly Father.

Remember, Gardening and Simple Faith.  They do go hand in hand.  Weeding, fertilizing, talking, sowing, and harvesting our gardens yield lifelong rewards of a faith that is rich in blessings and eternal forgiveness.  To all the dads out there, Happy Father's Day.  Continue parenting in God's will - your children will be forever grateful.  To my dad, Happy Father's Day.  I will always love you and will never forget you.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."  (NIV)  John 15:1-2

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Simple Strength

Strength in God, strength from God, sometimes waivers.  Many of us know that - many of us have felt that.  We know we believe, we know we have faith, we know God is there for us.  Yet, if that is the case, "Why?"   Why do bad things happen - to others, to me, to my family?  Why do we deal with illnesses, with grief, with death?  Why do we have stress that is overwhelming?  Why can't we seem to break through the agony sometimes?  Why?

I am not going to claim to have the answers to these questions.  Many times, the Devil can intervene in our lives.  Sometimes, I believe God gives us the opportunity to test our faith, to make us truly appreciate His strength - strength that can only come from God.  I don't know about you, but it is at those times of total desperation, total despair, that I am closest to my Lord.  Why?  I have no where else to go.  I realize at those times that I can't fix things anymore.  

Problem is, why do I wait so long.  Can you imagine how much more rewarding our lives would be if we counted on God from the beginning?  I know, we pray, we go to church - we may even get into the Word once in a while.  I mean REALLY go to God on day one.  Talk to him, tell him what's on your mind, share your weaknesses, ask for his strength, live the life he wants you to.    God's strength isn't only there for you when times are tough and bleak.  His strength is there for you each and every day - in all that you do.   

Today was Confirmation Sunday at our church.  It is a special day in a young person's life - a day they begin their journey and relationship with the Lord.  It is the day that they get to realize the strength they can gain from Simple Faith in God.  All we need to do is believe, believe that Jesus died on the cross for OUR sins, believe that we are FORGIVEN, believe that we can't do it ALONE, believe that he will ALWAYS be there for us.  Today, people have faith in so many things - in business, in politics, in medicine.  They say, "You can SEE those things - you can't see God."  Really?  

I see God every day.  Stop.  I mean stop~~  Take a moment to look around you, close your eyes, feel the breeze, hear laughter, smell flowers - it is all there.  All that HE has created.  I challenge you to start taking time each day to do two things - I promise you - it won't take long.  Wake up in the morning asking for God's help for something during the day - simply asking for His strength to guide you.  In the evening, before you close your eyes, thank him for one blessing of the day.  I am sure you can find one!  Let's take the challenge - in the morning and in the evening.  We can do this together.  I can almost guarantee the richness in our lives will be overwhelming.  I can't wait!! 

In the morning, let us ask for his Simple Strength.  In the evening, let us give thanks for Simple Blessings.  Most importantly, have Simple Faith.

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous, be strong."  (NIV) 1 Corinthians 16:13

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Learning Moments

I am an HR/Training & Development Manager by trade.  I enjoy my position.  Okay, not every day.  There are days when it is taxing and overwhelming with issues and strategies and issues and projects and issues and (well, you get the theme).  Yet, the largest portion of my job is teaching.  I believe I have my parents to thank for that.  They were both public school teachers (one of the most admirable careers I can think of).  I took the skill and moved over to the business sector.  My professional goal has been to try and teach, coach, and assist others in their learning journey.  To me there is no better feeling than to watch someone have that "Ah, ha" moment when their perspective changes, behavior changes, performance changes - and they decide to become someone different, someone better.

I realized a few years ago, though, that my personal learning moments were few.  I was too "busy".  I had too much to do.  After all, I worked full time, I am a wife and mother of four,  . . . . I was just too busy to learn.  Certainly, I had a desire to learn, but I didn't have the time.  Have you been there?  Maybe you are there today?  Life is too busy to learn, there is too much to do to learn, to better ourselves, to try and achieve more.  It can happen, that time when we realize that life is too much for us.  I was there.  Nobody could possibly understand what I was going through.  Nobody before me had ever felt such a weight on their shoulders. Nobody.  I was trying to do all the right things, but they seemed like 'one more thing' I needed to do instead of a blessing that I was provided the opportunity to do.  

Then, I realized, that the learning moments didn't have to come in a classroom, or with a specific coach/mentor, or through online courses.  I had the best teacher in the world - I had Jesus~~   I felt called to begin this learning.  I had other areas where I could have moved forward.  I could have gone back to school to get my MBA, I could have searched for other degree programs, but they didn't seem to be the ones that were calling my heart.  Jesus seemed to be calling my heart.  He was the one that was saying, "It's time - it is your turn to learn."

Let the learning begin!!  I am blessed to have a supportive husband who is willing to learn with me.  Together we have been learning through Bible Studies as I try to better understand this new platform to learn.  There are daily devotions to be read and Bible Verses to look up.  There was even a challenge a year or so ago to read the Bible in a year through our church.  This has been something I have always wanted to do.  I did it!!  I hope to do it again!!  There was so much to learn, so much to grasp, notes to be made and lessons to be gained.  I will never be able to gain everything our Dear Lord has for us to learn.  Yet, I finally feel as if my heart is being filled - I have had my "ah, ha" moment.  I look forward to learning more about God and His plan for me and my family.   

As I share with my associates at work, we have learning moments every day.  Moments, when we open our minds and heart, when we can learn something new if we actually listen to someone, ask questions of them, have the humility to believe that we don't know it all!!  We are not just the teachers, we are the learners.  Learn - take advantage of the multitude of avenues there are to grasp God's Word now.  Sign up for a Bible Verse a day, maybe a daily devotion that pops into your inbox each morning to start your day off on the right note, perhaps a study group nearby (there are even online ones).  Are you looking for something more conventional?  Open your Bible.  You don't have to have "a plan".  Just open and read.  I guarantee that Our Dear Lord will speak to you.  Have the humility to learn, heaven's wisdom awaits you!

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."  (NIV) James 3:17

About Me

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.